The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the Justice Department’s request to halt Texas’ near-total abortion ban but agreed to expedite challenges to the law, CNN reports.
Texas’ ban bars abortion at around six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant and well before the Supreme Court precedent of around 24 weeks, which is the point of fetal viability. The court has twice refused to block Texas’ law despite it clearly violating precedent, but this time it agreed to hear challenges to the law within days.
The Justice Department had asked the court to block the law while it is being litigated.
Instead, the court said it would hear oral arguments challenging the law on November 1, an unusually fast timeline that underscores the speed at which the court is moving to address the controversial law.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the lone dissent in the case, arguing that the expedited timeline is "cold comfort" Texas women "who are entitled to relief now.”
Leaving the law in place, she said, is “catastrophic.”
"I cannot capture the totality of this harm in these pages," she said, writing that Texas "empowered by this Court's inaction," has "thoroughly chilled the exercise of the right recognized in Roe."
"Women seeking abortion care in Texas are entitled to relief from this Court now," she wrote. "Because of the Court's failure to act today, that relief, if it comes, will be too late for many. Once again, I dissent."
Unusually fast schedule:
"This is the quickest argument the court will have heard after granting review since 2000, and it suggests that, although the justices may not be sure how they're going to rule, they understand the urgency of deciding, one way or the other, whether states can so transparently and cynically try to frustrate judicial review of laws that violate existing constitutional rights," Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN.
But women’s health advocates criticized the court for not blocking the law.
"Texans deserved better than this," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health. "The legal limbo is excruciating for both patients and our clinic staff. We've had to turn hundreds of patients away since this ban took effect, and this ruling means we'll have to keep denying patients the abortion care that they need and deserve."