Speed Reads

heartbeat act keeps thumping

Texas Supreme Court rejects challenge to abortion ban

The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the state's Heartbeat Act, which bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, on Friday, The New York Times reported.

Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote on Twitter that the court's decision "closes the last back door" against legal challenges to the law by abortion providers.

Per the Times, the Heartbeat Act was designed to escape judicial review in federal courts, as abortion bans before the point of fetal viability — around 23 weeks — are considered unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade (1973). The Texas law empowers private citizens to sue anyone who "aids or abets" a woman in obtaining an abortion. Therefore, the Texas Supreme Court ruled, government and medical licensing officials cannot be sued over the law because they play no role in enforcing it.

Commentators across the political spectrum have expressed concerns about the enforcement mechanism. Hannah Cox of the right-libertarian Foundation for Economic Education tweeted that the same legal workaround could be used to threaten "gun rights across the country & any number of other civil liberties."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, tweeted that the court's decision is a "major victory" and that the law "has saved thousands of unborn babies."

A New York Times analysis published Sunday suggested that, even after factoring in out-of-state abortions and abortion pills delivered by mail, the number of abortions among Texas women has likely fallen by about 10 percent since the law took effect in September.

Michael New, a business professor at the Catholic University of America, suggested in National Review that the drop could be more drastic because the studies cited by the Times assumed every woman who obtained abortion pills carried out an abortion. "Some women," he argued, "might have simply wanted to have abortion pills available in the event of a future unplanned pregnancy."