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Divided Supreme Court leaves Texas abortion law in place

A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sep. 1.
A security guard opens the door to the Whole Women’s Health Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 1.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A deeply divided Supreme Court is allowing a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in force, stripping most women of the right to an abortion in the nation’s second-largest state.

The court voted 5-4 early Thursday to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of the law that went into effect Wednesday.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant.

“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the court said in the unsigned order.

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan dissented.

Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring civil lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient. Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible.

After a federal appeals court refused to allow a prompt review of the law before it took effect, the measure’s opponents sought Supreme Court review.

The Texas law prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually at about six weeks, before most women realize they’re pregnant.


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