On Friday, the Supreme Court said that they will not block Texas’ SB8, a near-total abortion ban, but will review the law on November 1st.
The justices said that they will rule on whether the Justice Department and abortion providers can sue in federal court over the law, which was designed specifically to avoid judicial review. The six-week abortion ban is structured with “vigilante justice”, encouraging and deputizing private citizens to sue providers and anyone who helps someone access abortion care after six weeks.
As most people do not know that they are pregnant until well after six weeks, the ban makes over 85% of abortions illegal. While many six-week bans have been passed, this is the first one that has been enacted, as they are usually successfully blocked.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented with the decision to not block the law, writing, “There are women in Texas who became pregnant on or around the day that S. B. 8 took effect. As I write these words, some of those women do not know they are pregnant. When they find out, should they wish to exercise their constitutional right to seek abortion care, they will be unable to do so anywhere in their home State.
“Those with sufficient resources may spend thousands of dollars and multiple days anxiously seeking care from out-of-state providers so overwhelmed with Texas patients that they cannot adequately serve their own communities. Those without the ability to make this journey, whether due to lack of money or childcare or employment flexibility or the myriad other constraints that shape people’s day-to-day lives, may be forced to carry to term against their wishes or resort to dangerous methods of self-help.”
The court initially refused to block the law in a 5-4 decision in September, allowing it to go into effect on September 1. A federal judge blocked the law in early October, responding to the Justice Department’s bid to stop the law, and 48 hours later a federal appeals court placed a temporary hold on that order to block.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, said that clinics are fighting to stay open during this tumultuous time. In 2013, an anti-abortion law in Texas forced over half of the clinics in the state to close. Though the law was struck down in 2016, some clinics never reopened.
“It’s a matter of time if this law continues to be enforced,” she stated. “It will cause clinics to close and further decimate the fabric of care that is needed to take care of people across the state.”
The Supreme Court will hear this case on November 1, just weeks before they will hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. That case is brought by the state’s only remaining clinic.
Sources: NPR 10/22/21; AP News 10/22/21; Feminist Newswire 10/18/21