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Supreme Court Refuses to Require Prompt Action on Texas Abortion Law

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In dissent, the three liberal justices said the majority, by allowing a time-consuming legal detour, had created “a disaster for the rule of law.”
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from abortion providers in Texas that a federal judge be allowed to take prompt action on their challenge to a state law that bans most abortions after six weeks. The practical effect of the order, the three liberal justices wrote in dissent, was to let the law stay in place indefinitely. “This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent. The majority gave no reasons for its ruling, which followed a decision last month allowing the providers to sue at least some state officials to try to block or limit the law. That victory was an empty one, the dissenting justices wrote on Thursday, because the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, refused to return the case to the trial judge and instead sent it on a legal detour to a state court. “It has been over four months since Texas Senate Bill 8 took effect,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The law immediately devastated access to abortion care in Texas through a complicated private bounty-hunter scheme that violates nearly 50 years of this court’s precedents.” “Today, for the fourth time, this court declines to protect pregnant Texans from egregious violations of their constitutional rights,” she wrote, referring to a series of rulings starting with one in September that let the law go into effect notwithstanding Supreme Court precedents that bar states from banning abortions before fetal viability, which is ordinarily around 23 weeks. “One month after directing that the petitioners’ suit could proceed in part, the court countenances yet another violation of its own commands,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

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