US Supreme Court deals another blow to abortion providers

The nine justices of the US Supreme Court /POOL/AFP/File

The conservative-leaning US Supreme Court dealt another blow on Thursday to opponents of a Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The court, in a 6-3 decision, rejected a request by abortion providers to have the case sent to a district judge who had previously moved to block the Texas law.

Instead, the case will remain with the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The majority did not provide any comment on their decision but the three liberal justices on the nation's highest court penned a scathing dissent.

"Today, for the fourth time, this Court declines to protect pregnant Texans from egregious violations of their constitutional rights," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

"This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies," Sotomayor said. "I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee."

The Texas law, which went into force on September 1, bans abortion after six weeks, when a heartbeat in the womb can be detected but before many women even know they are pregnant.

It is the most restrictive abortion law passed in the United States since the procedure was guaranteed as a constitutional right nearly five decades ago.

Laws severely restricting abortion have been passed in multiple Republican-led states, but have been struck down by the courts for violating Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 22 to 24 weeks.

Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB8) differs from other efforts in that it attempts to insulate the state from claims of rights violations by giving members of the public the ability to sue doctors who perform abortions -- or anyone who helps facilitate them -- once a heartbeat in the womb is detected.

They can be rewarded with $10,000 for initiating civil suits that land in court, prompting criticism that the state is encouraging people to take the law into their own hands.

Many clinics in Texas -- fearful of potentially ruinous lawsuits -- have closed their doors.

- Mississippi case -
Protestors outside the US Supreme Court during oral arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy /GETTY IMAGES/AFP/File

The Supreme Court has declined to rule on the constitutionality of the Texas law but indicated in another abortion case that it may be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 1 about a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, and the court's conservative wing -- which includes three justices nominated by Donald Trump -- appeared ready to uphold the law and perhaps even go further and overturn Roe.

The court is to render a decision in the Mississippi case by June.

Public opinion polls have found most Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

But a segment of the population, particularly on the religious right, has never accepted the Roe v. Wade ruling and has campaigned to have it overturned.

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