SCOTUS hears arguments in Texas abortion law cases as statute’s effects grow clear

With the controversial Texas abortion law returning to the U.S. Supreme Court this week, the justices have been made privy to new information about what has been happening on the ground in the Lone Star State since it went into effect, leading some to speculate about precisely where their inquiry would focus, as Politico reports.

Thus far, the high court has declined to intervene and stop the ban on abortions after the point at which a fetal heartbeat is detected, with the most recent rejection occurring in late October when its implementation was not blocked in advance of expedited arguments, as The Hill noted.

At that time, Justice Sonia Sotomayor railed against the decision not to halt enforcement of the law immediately, saying that “The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now.”

Prior to that, by a 5-4 margin, the justices declined to stop the law from going into effect in September, but Politico posits that the justices may now find themselves swayed by new evidence of how the provisions have altered the landscape in Texas since then, including a virtual halt to the procedure within the state.

On Monday, the court entertained arguments on both sides of the abortion law, and while there was reportedly not a great deal of discussion as to whether Roe v. Wade and other key precedents granting a right to abortion should be overturned, there were lines of discussion suggesting that those pivotal issues are bubbling just under the surface ahead of next month’s arguments in a case out of Mississippi, which many believe puts Roe and its progeny in real jeopardy.

In roughly three hours of arguments concerning two distinct lawsuits – one brought by abortion providers and one by the U.S. Department of Justice – the court provided some hints that it might permit at least one of the legal challenges to the Texas provision to move forward.

According to the Texas Tribune, the questions asked by the justices seemed to reveal a willingness for the providers’ case to survive, given their apparent concerns about the law’s private enforcement mechanism, but they also showed a healthy skepticism that the DOJ had the right to sue the state over the abortion restrictions.

South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman said on Monday that the direction of the justices’ thinking was not hard to discern, noting, “This wasn’t cryptic. This was pretty blatant. I think the clinics are going to win by a 6-3 vote.”

Even if a challenge to the Texas law ultimately prevails, there is great concern on the left that the aforementioned Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will serve as the controversy that finally brings about the reckoning on abortion for which millions of Americans have long waited.