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For 2nd Time, SCOTUS Won't Block Texas Abortion Ban

High court is standing firm on 'heartbeat' law for now, but it will hear oral arguments in November
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 22, 2021 12:28 PM CDT
Supreme Court Stands Firm on Texas Abortion Law, for Now
In this Monday photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. Texas is urging the Supreme Court to leave in place its law banning most abortions and telling the justices there's no reason to rush into the case.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court isn't immediately blocking the Texas law that bans most abortions, but the court has agreed to hear arguments in the case in early November. The justices said Friday they'll decide whether the federal government has the right to sue over the law, per the AP. The court's action leaves in place for the time being a law that clinics say has led to an 80% reduction in abortions in the nation's second-largest state. The law has been in effect since September, aside from a district court-ordered pause that lasted just 48 hours, and bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they're pregnant.

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That's well before the Supreme Court's major abortion decisions allow states to prohibit abortion, although the court has agreed to hear an appeal from Mississippi asking it to overrule those decisions, in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The high court is hearing arguments in the Mississippi case on Dec. 1. The Justice Department filed suit over the Texas law after the Supreme Court rejected an earlier effort by abortion providers to put the measure on hold temporarily.

In early October, US District Judge Robert Pitman ruled for the administration, putting the law on hold and allowing abortions to resume. Two days later, a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals put the law back into effect. If the law remains in effect, "no decision of this Court is safe," the Biden administration wrote in a brief filed Friday. "States need not comply with, or even challenge, precedents with which they disagree. They may simply outlaw the exercise of whatever rights they disfavor."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that she would have blocked the law now. "For the second time, the court is presented with an application to enjoin a statute enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas," she wrote on Friday, per USA Today. "For the second time, the court declines to act immediately to protect these women from grave and irreparable harm." (Read more abortion stories.)

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