The United States Supreme Court refused on Wednesday to overturn Texas’ new legislation prohibiting abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, preserving, at least for the time being, the country’s most restrictive abortion regulation.
The ruling came as major abortion providers in the state announced that they had canceled the majority of their abortion appointments, raising concerns among supporters that abortions had been effectively prohibited in the state.
The new limits took effect at midnight on Wednesday, just before the United States Supreme Court announced its judgment later that night. The decision was 5-4, with three liberal justices dissenting, supported by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who deemed the law “not merely uncommon, but unprecedented.” The Supreme Court noted that it was not ruling on the bill’s validity, but rather that it would not halt it at this time.
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit,” the opinion read. “In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”
The rule prohibits abortions as early as six weeks when many women are unaware they are pregnant. It places the burden of upholding the norm on members of the general public, allowing anybody to sue someone they suspect of “aiding and abetting” an abortion for damages. That design was designed to avoid the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the seminal Supreme Court decision that guaranteed women’s right to abortion nearly a half-century ago.
According to providers, the law prohibits at least 85 percent of the treatments previously performed in the state.
So yet, the law does not appear to have resulted in a flood of litigation against providers. The Texas Right to Life legislative director, John Seago, told The Texas Tribune earlier Wednesday that his organization was ready to file lawsuits but hadn’t yet since there hadn’t been evidence of violations so fast. He stated that all abortion facilities had stated that they would comply with the new law.