Texas Supreme Court Closes Down on Final Challenges to the State’s Restrictive Abortion Law


Texas’ abortion law holds out against final challenges made in the state’s Supreme Court on Friday. Graphic by K. Peechu

K. Peechu, Staff Writer

On Friday, March 11th, the Texas Supreme Court shut down a federal challenge to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which banned abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, when fetal cardiac activity is detected (allowing no exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest). This decision effectively closed off the last remaining road that state abortion clinics and activists had to challenge the bill.

As the most restrictive abortion law in the country, the Texas bill has given the rights of enforcement to the people, offering $10,000 rewards for successful lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” a woman who gets an abortion outside of the mandated six weeks. 

The bill is an indirect counter to the constitutional Roe v. Wade decision on January 22nd, 1973, which essentially established protection against government restriction for pregnant women in their choice of abortion, allowing leeway for the procedure up to once the fetus is viable outside the womb, around 23 weeks with current medical advancements.

Because Roe v. Wade challenges the government’s hand in the abortion process and the Heartbeat Act has pushed civilians to the forefront of imposition, attempts to challenge the bill have been repeatedly met with declinations. Before the bill had taken effect in September of 2021, abortion rights activists asked the Supreme Court to block it, receiving a refusal due to the loophole the bill found in the Roe v. Wade protections.

The most recent challenge to the bill (and likely final push back for a while) targeted a small window left by the Supreme Court last December when they stated that those who opposed the law could file lawsuits against Texas medical licensing officials, who could penalize abortion providers violating the law.

On Friday, Texas Supreme Court justices, all Republicans, said that their hands were tied, and stated that the officials technically could not enforce the law because of their government position, which would contradict the constitutional ruling of Roe v. Wade, and so, therefore, could not be sued.

The justices wrote, “These provisions deprive the state-agency executives of any authority they might otherwise have to enforce the requirements through a disciplinary action.” 

The law has caused unrest and difficulties nationwide, with legislations of similar nature pending across the country. The Supreme Court has been considering a Mississippi law, banning the abortion procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with the six Republican justices on the court showing a strong inclination to uphold it. The state had also asked to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely, with many justices indicating that they would vote for that.

Out-of-state clinics have seen a flood of Texas patients since the abortion law had gone into effect. Clinic administrator Kathaleen Pittman at the Hope Medical Group for Women facility in Shreveport, Louisiana said that prior to the six-week ban, 18% of her patients were Texans, which had risen to 55% in October of 2021, and then hit 64% in late February. 

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, expresses the distress and urgency of the situation following the decision from the Texas Supreme Court, stating, “The situation is becoming increasingly dire, and now neighboring states—where we have been sending patients—are about to pass similar bans. Where will Texans go then?” She points out that with increased numbers of states passing these bans, the harder it will be for any woman in the region at all to receive abortion care.

Meanwhile, Texas Right To Life, the largest pro-life organization in Texas, conveyed their continued support for the Texas Heartbeat Act and approval of Friday’s ruling in a statement, where they said, “We’re grateful that the Texas Heartbeat Act will continue saving thousands of lives, and we’re hopeful that the judiciary will soon pave the way to protect all preborn children by overturning Roe v. Wade.”