Associate Justice Stephen Breyer sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, April 23, 2021.
CNN  — 

Sometimes doing nothing can be hugely impactful.

That’s exactly what happened late Tuesday night, when the Supreme Court refused to intercede to block Texas’ restrictive abortion law, making it the most stringent of its kind to go into effect. The law, which was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be before women even know they are pregnant. Opponents of the new law say it would outlaw 85% of abortions in the state.

The importance of the law – and the court’s early unwillingness to intercede to block it – extends well beyond Texas. As CNN wrote at the time it passed in Texas, the legislation “could provide the playbook for red states to pass extreme abortion restrictions – without having to wait for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.” The quirk in the law is that it allows any private citizen to sue an abortion provider who does the procedure after six weeks – or anyone who helped to make that abortion happen.

The court taking a pass on wading into the Texas abortion fight comes as it prepares to consider Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks in its next term. (The Texas law doesn’t make exceptions for victims of rape or incest.) Taken together, the Texas and Mississippi cases have reignited fears that the court, where conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority, will overturn Roe v. Wade – if not now, then at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The Texas news has also emboldened liberals in their calls for Stephen Breyer, the senior liberal on the court, to retire by the end of the 2022 session in order to ensure President Joe Biden is able to make a replacement pick while Democrats still control the Senate.

Breyer, for his part, gave Democrats reason for some hope last week in an interview with The New York Times.

“I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die – hope not,” Breyer, who turned 83 earlier this month, told the Times. Breyer recounted a conversation he had with the late Justice Antonin Scalia: “He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years.’” Breyer noted that Scalia’s point would “inevitably be in the psychology” of his final decision.

That represented a change from what Breyer had told CNN’s Joan Biskupic earlier this summer. Breyer said then that the factors in his decision were “primarily, of course, health. Second, the court.” But Breyer didn’t sound like someone with a foot out the door. He told Biskupic that he was enjoying his new role as the senior-most liberal on the court; [It] “has made a difference to me. … It is not a fight. It is not sarcasm. It is deliberation.”

To be clear: A Breyer retirement in 2022 would not fundamentally affect the math on a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Even under that scenario, Biden would simply nominate a liberal justice to replace a liberal justice – keeping the court’s makeup unchanged at six conservatives to three liberals. But for liberals, ensuring that they don’t suffer another blow like they did in 2020 – when the seat of the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was replaced by conservative Amy Coney Barrett – is critical.

Tuesday night affirmed (again) the stakes at play in the Supreme Court’s makeup. And will up the pressure on Breyer to signal his plans sooner rather than later.

Whether he bends under that pressure, however, remains to be seen.