WASHINGTON (KXAN) — The Supreme Court announced Friday the “Texas Heartbeat Law” will remain in effect, but it plans to hear challenges to it Nov. 1. The law restricts abortions when cardiac activity is detected in a fetus, roughly around six weeks into a pregnancy.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion, saying she concurred with the decision to hear the case but also dissented when it came to leaving the law in effect, writing: “The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now. These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”
Ultimately, the Supreme Court will consider how Texas is enforcing the law (through private citizens, which makes it difficult to challenge in federal court) and whether the Department of Justice can sue to block the law.
Texas filed its brief with the high court Thursday in response to the Justice Department’s request that the court block the enforcement of the law. The state’s attorneys pointed at the ruling by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the law after a federal judge ordered its enforcement to be halted as why the law should be left in place.
The Justice Department filed an emergency application Oct. 18 with the Supreme Court to hear the case, saying the law is “clearly unconstitutional” because it bans abortion, long before a fetus can survive outside the womb. The law was briefly put on hold after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee by former President Barack Obama, ruled on it, calling it “offensive deprivation of an important right.”
The Fifth Circuit panel suspended Pitman’s ruling 48 hours after he made it and allowed the law to continue to be enforced, pending further arguments.