WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Friday the “Texas Heartbeat Law” will remain in effect, but it plans to hear challenges to it Nov. 1. The law restricts abortions when cardiac activity is detected in a fetus, roughly around six weeks into a pregnancy.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion, saying she concurred with the decision to hear the case but also dissented when it came to leaving the law in effect, writing: “The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now. These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”
Texas filed its brief with the high court Thursday in response to the Justice Department’s request that the court block the enforcement of the law. The state’s attorneys pointed at the ruling by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the law – after a federal judge ordered its enforcement to be halted – as the reason the law should be left in place.
The Justice Department filed an emergency application Oct. 18 with the Supreme Court to hear the case, saying the law is “clearly unconstitutional” because it bans abortion long before a fetus can survive outside the womb. The law was briefly put on hold after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee by former President Barack Obama, ruled on it, calling it an “offensive deprivation of an important right.”
The Fifth Circuit panel reversed Pitman’s ruling 48 hours after he made it.