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Texas Supreme Court rules state officials cannot enforce controversial abortion law

The ruling effectively ends the federal abortion law challenge by clinics.

TEXAS, USA — The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday on the state’s controversial abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8, that only private citizens, not state officials, have the right to enforce it.

The opinion, written on behalf of Justice Jeffrey Boyd stated, “Texas law does not grant the state-agency executives named as defendants in this case any authority to enforce the Act’s requirements.”

The law, which took effect in September, allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected.

“This is a big win for children in Texas. The Supreme Court of Texas has ruled against the abortion industry in their litigation against the Texas Heart Beat Law," said Lila Rose, the president of Live Action, a leading national pro-life group. "The law will continue to protect children with a detectable heartbeat from the violence of abortion.”

Abortion providers challenged the law, arguing the law is actually being enforced by state officials because clerks docket the lawsuits, and it would be the attorney general and medical licensing officials who could discipline those who break the law.

Friday’s decision by the Republican-controlled Texas supreme court effectively ends their challenge.

Abortion advocates who helped bring the challenge before the court say it is a step backward in securing women’s constitutional rights.

“We have been fighting this ban for six long months, but the courts have failed us. All the while, our Texas clinics have been open – and that is a testament to the commitment and resilience of our staff and doctors. This ban does not change the need for abortion in Texas, it just blocks people from accessing the care they need," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. "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? The more states that pass these bans, the harder it will be for anyone in this region to get abortion care. Texans deserve better.”

The case now goes back to the 5th Circuit, which will likely use the Texas Supreme Court’s interpretation of state law to bring an end to the federal challenge.

Editor's note: The below video was originally published in September 2021.

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