Abortion supporters and a Supreme Court justice who regard abortion as a “constitutional right” are furious after the high court recently refused to speed up the case over Texas’ ban on most fetal killings, in effect since September.
Over the protests of three liberal justices, the court declined on Jan. 20 to order a federal appeals court to return the case to a federal judge who had blocked the law temporarily, PBS reports.
Texas’ ban will therefore likely remain in force for the foreseeable future. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sent the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which is controlled by Republicans and is not obligated to act immediately.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed particularly incensed by the move. “Instead of stopping a Fifth Circuit panel from indulging Texas’ newest delay tactics, the Court allows the State yet again to extend the deprivation of the federal constitutional rights of its citizens through procedural manipulation,” she wrote, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
Abortion practitioners had asked the high court to countermand the appellate order, saying in court papers that it has no other purpose other than to delay a decision and keep clinics from performing abortions beyond around six weeks of pregnancy. The Texas law prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually around six weeks.
Justices are expected to rule in a major Mississippi case in June that could roll back 1973’s Roe v. Wade case and limit abortion rights nationwide. Abortion providers are worried that their challenge to the Texas law might not be resolved before then. Last month the high court preserved the law and allowed only a narrow challenge against the restrictions to go forward.