SCOTUS Lets Texas Abortion Law Stand; 5th Circuit Court To Hear Case In January

As Albuquerque considers banning abortions after 20 weeks, the Supreme Court has decided to allow a similar law in Texas to remain in effect while it makes its way through the courts. The law, known as House Bill 2, was passed last summer over Wendy Davis’s filibuster, then blocked by a lower court, then un-blocked by a higher court. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case in January, but abortion providers had appealed SCOTUS to take up the case of the law’s constitutionality immediately and, in the meantime, re-instate the injunction against it that was lifted last month. But in a 5-4 ruling, SCOTUS refused to do so.

House Bill 2 bans abortions after 20 weeks, imposes onerous regulations on clinics that perform abortions, and limits the circumstances under which doctors to administer medical abortions. Immediately after the law took effect, twelve clinics were forced to close, and the Texas Policy Evaluation Project estimates that 22,000 women won’t have access to safe abortions under the new regulations.

Today’s decision issued was unsigned by the justices, but SCOTUSBlog has deduced that the justices who voted to deny the emergency appeal were Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito and Anthony Kennedy.

It’s important to note that the court’s decision was not tantamount to a ruling on the merits of the law itself. SCOTUS hasn’t yet heard the case; all Tuesday’s decision means is that the court won’t block the law from taking effect until the 5th Circuit hears the case in January. At that point, if the law is upheld, it will (presumably) be appealed to the Supreme Court, which will then decide whether to hear it.

In other words, this is far from the final word on the law, but in the meantime, House Bill 2 will remain the law of the land in Texas.