The Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Texas abortion law, that bars the procedure after the first six weeks of pregnancy, can remain in place, but the justices said that abortion providers had the right to challenge the law in federal court.
The law, known as SB 8, bars abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at around six weeks — often before a woman knows she is pregnant. It is in stark contrast to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide prior to viability, which can occur at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The law has no exception for rape or incest.
After the justices allowed the law to go into effect on Sept. 1, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal justices in dissent, women in the state scrambled across state borders and lower-income women were left with few options.
Supporters and critics of the law weighed in with "friend of the court" legal briefs, attempting to illustrate the broad impact of a potential ruling.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, leads a coalition of 24 attorneys general siding with the abortion providers in the state. In their brief, Healey detailed how clinics in neighboring states are overwhelmed with patients from Texas. Healey warned the justices that if they were to greenlight the Texas law, other states could draft similar laws in areas such as gun rights, marriage equality and voting rights.
Healey told the court that the states recognize the "vital role" that judicial review plays in resolving tensions between a state's policy preference and a constitutional right.
"Where longstanding precedent clearly and unambiguously forecloses a particular policy as unconstitutional, a State cannot be permitted to disregard that precedent by passing an unconstitutional law and shielding it from judicial review," Healey argued.
Indiana and 19 other Republican-led states filed a brief in support of Texas, arguing that the district court that ruled in favor of the Department of Justice "threatens to expose every State in the Union to a suit by the federal Executive Branch whenever the U.S. Attorney General deems a state law to violate some constitutional right of someone, somewhere."