The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in two challenges to Texas' newest abortion law in Whole Women's Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas.
The law at issue, Senate Bill 8, effectively bans most abortions from taking place once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Only two months ago, the Supreme Court declined to grant an injunction to suspend the law, with Roberts siding with the liberal Justices. The law has remained in effect since.
The two challenges to Senate Bill 8 explored different issues.
Whole Women's Health v. Jackson raised the issue of whether a state can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions.
United States v. Texas explored whether the United States may bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, or all private parties to prohibit Texas Senate Bill 8 from being enforced.
Unfortunately for pro-life advocates, Politico reported how Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett seemed skeptical of Senate Bill 8's constitutionality:
Kavanaugh seemed troubled by the possibility that allowing the Texas law to remain in effect could lead other states to pass laws that would intrude on various rights protected by the Constitution — one of the key arguments the abortion clinics challenging the law put forward when asking the court to strike it down...
Barrett, meanwhile, focused on a provision in the Texas law that limits which legal arguments alleged abortion facilitators can make to defend themselves when sued under the statute. She noted that the law seeks to block defendants from arguing to state judges that allowing members of the public to collect thousands of dollars in damages over someone’s abortion could chill others seeking to obtain or provide abortions.
While it is uncertain when SCOTUS will issue its ruling, any decision that follows will certainly have an impact on abortion jurisprudence for decades to come.