WASHINGTON, DC — A deeply divided Supreme Court is allowing a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in force.
The court's action, for now, strips most women of the right to an abortion in the nation’s second-largest state.
In an unsigned order just before midnight, the court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others that sought to block enforcement of the law that went into effect Wednesday.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's three liberal judges in dissenting the ruling.
The majority — all conservatives — found that the Texas law "presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which [plaintiffs] have not carried their burden.“ In dissent, Justice Sonya Sotomayor called the majority decision "stunning" and called the new Texas regulation a "flagrantly unconstitutional law."
The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.
It does not make exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, and also allows individuals to sue those suspected of helping a woman obtain an abortion, with an award of up to $10,000.
The Texas Tribune reports that those who file such lawsuits do not need to provide a personal connection to whomever they sue.
Abortion doctors and advocates in Texas fear that women will lose their right to an abortion provided to them under Roe v. Wade before they even know they are pregnant. But beyond that, they worry that lawsuits against medical professionals could financially ruin them or force abortion providers out of the state.
President Joe Biden slammed the new law in a statement released Wednesday, shortly after it went into effect,
"The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes. And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual," the statement read. "My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right."