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US Supreme Court: Texas abortion clinics can sue over law


US Supreme Court: Texas abortion clinics can sue over law
The United States Supreme Court Building in Washington DC. (GP)

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Washington – The United States Supreme Court has ruled that abortion providers can sue to challenge a controversial Texas abortion law.

The law, known as SB8, gives people the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant.

In its ruling, however, the court said that the law can remain in effect, leaving it in place.

Doctors, women’s rights groups and the Biden administration have heavily criticised the law.

The divisive law – which came into effect on September 1- bans abortion after what some refer to as a foetal heartbeat. The law makes an exception for cases of medical emergency, but not for rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that at six weeks a foetus has not yet developed a heartbeat, but rather an “electronically induced” flickering of tissues that will become the heart.

The Texas law is enforced by giving individuals – from Texas or elsewhere – the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week mark.

At issue at the Supreme Court was whether two groups – Texas abortion providers and the federal government – can sue to block the law.

Friday’s 8-1 ruling means that lawsuits from the providers can proceed. With the decision, the ruling will head back to the district court.

Once back in the district court, the providers will now be able to file for a stay of enforcement and ultimately challenge the law’s constitutionality.

In the meantime, the law will stay in place. In a separate order, the Supreme Court dismissed a separate challenge brought by the Biden administration.

In a written dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed with allowing the lawsuits to move forward but was critical of leaving the law in place, saying that “the court should have put an end to this madness months ago, before SB8 went into effect”.

The ban has led to a steep drop in abortions, experts say.

Research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that abortions in the state fell by nearly 50% after the law went into effect, leading to an influx of patients seeking abortion care in neighbouring states. (BBC)