Last Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a clearly unconstitutional abortion ban in Texas, leaving in place S.B. 8, which bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The Court’s ruling substantially narrows options to challenge the law in federal court, and there is no fast option for a Texas Supreme Court ruling in state court, say legal experts.
By refusing to block S.B.8, which authorizes vigilantes to enforce the ban via civil lawsuit, the Court has allowed the ban to remain in place while it determines whether parts of the law are permissible. The Court will not determine the constitutionality of Texas’ abortion ban; rather, it will determine if state governments can circumvent a federal, constitutional right by “delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil action.” It will also determine if the federal government is able to file a lawsuit to “obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the State…and prohibit S.B.8 from being enforced.”
The Court’s decision to allow S.B.8’s enforcement while it deliberates effectively robs pregnant people in the second largest state in the nation of their constitutional rights. By permitting a state to delegate authority to uphold the law to members of the public, the Court’s decision makes a mockery of federal constitutional rights. “It would vitiate our federal system of rights if left to stand, while it now injures countless numbers of women, girls, and pregnant people,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. The widely-quoted opinion of Justice Sonia Sotomayor deserves to be read in its entirety.