SCOTUS declines to block Texas abortion law ahead of expedited arguments

The strict Texas abortion law that has caused a national firestorm since its passage is now the subject of a challenge from the Biden Justice Department, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week not to block its implementation ahead of an expedited hearing on the matter prompted outrage from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, according to The Hill.

The Texas statute, which prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, took effect in the Lone Star State last month when the same nine justices did not agree to accept an emergency challenge to its enactment.

Again on Friday, the high court declined to halt enactment of the law, but the justices did state their intention to entertain expedited arguments on whether abortion providers and the Justice Department are entitled to bring a federal lawsuit against the state statute, proceedings which are now slated to occur in early November, according to the Associated Press.

Sotomayor, a member of the court’s reliably liberal wing, subsequently put her name to a seven-page opinion in which she expressed her extreme frustration at the court’s unwillingness to block the law from continued effect in Texas.

Noting that she was in full agreement with the court’s decision to speed up the process of hearing arguments in the case, Sotomayor indicated that she would have put a stop to enforcement of the law’s provisions immediately, saying, “The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now.”

Sotomayor further argued that women with financial means have the ability to travel elsewhere for abortion services, but those who are unable to leave the state may have no choice but to continue an unwanted pregnancy or “resort to dangerous methods of self-help.”

Underscoring what she and countless Democrats feel is the unique and urgent nature of the issues at hand, Sotomayor declared, “These circumstances are exceptional. Women seeking abortion care in Texas are entitled to relief from this Court now. Because of the Court’s failure to act today, that relief, if it comes, will be too late for many.”

On the other side of the coin, however, was Kimberlyn Schwartz of Texas Right to Life, who said that the court’s refusal to stop the law – for now – represents “a great development for the Pro-Life movement because the law will continue to save an estimated 100 babies per day, and because the justices will actually discuss whether these lawsuits are valid in the first place.”

The next few months may well prove pivotal to the fate of abortion in this country, as the justices are also slated to hear a Mississippi case in which they are being asked to overturn the key precedents of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey and potentially, in the words of Judge Amul Thapar, “tow our jurisprudence back to the safe harbor of democratic legitimacy” and rightly leave questions of abortion access to the states.