WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) — Days after declining to overturn the Texas Heartbeat Act, a broad pro-life measure which bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, the U.S. Supreme Court has sent the case back to a lower court which previously backed the law.
The move came after the Court rejected a bid to overturn the Texas law on Friday, opting to leave the life-saving legislation in place pending further challenges.
In its Thursday decision, signed by Trump-appointee Justice Neil M. Gorsuch who drafted the majority opinion, the Supreme Court put the pro-life law back in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which has already upheld the legislation in several prior rulings, Newsmax reported.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, or Texas S.B. 8, requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Effectively banning nearly all abortions in the Lone Star State, the Texas law relies upon a unique enforcement mechanism which allows private citizens to sue abortionists who perform abortions after a heartbeat can be detected.
According to the Washington Post, abortionists had asked the Supreme Court to immediately return the case regarding the constitutionality of Texas’s law to a lower court. Seeking a favorable ruling, the abortionists had requested that the case to be taken up by a district court which had blocked the law in October, days before it was reinstated by the Fifth Circuit Court.
The Court agreed to forgo the standard 25-day delay as requested, but then sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court “as requested by Texas officials” headed up by Texas’ Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Meanwhile, despite permitting abortionists to continue lodging challenges against the Texas law, the highest court in the U.S. narrowed the scope of the objections they’re allowed to make.
NEW: Supreme Court formally returns Texas abortion case to 5th Circuit. Providers get immediate judgment they sought but don’t get what could be much more important: a remand all the way to the district judge who has been receptive to abortion rights. pic.twitter.com/ap04fqgqfW
— Greg Stohr (@GregStohr) December 16, 2021
According to the Washington Post, Paxton “told the Supreme Court that Texas plans to ask the 5th Circuit to direct the Texas Supreme Court to interpret a provision of state law before the case is sent back to the district court.”
The Post observed that “It is unclear how long that could take,” suggesting that the moves by the Supreme Court and the state of Texas are attempts to stall resolution of the matter until after the Court rules on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case currently on the docket.
Dobbs concerns Mississippi’s HB 1510 law passed in 2018 which bans abortions later than 15 weeks gestation for any reason other than physical medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. The case could result in elimination of the federal “right” to abortion by reversing Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the two Supreme Court decisions which established and upheld a “constitutional right to abortion” throughout all 50 states.
Overturning the precedents would formally protect the right of states like Texas to ban abortion outright.
Texas’s broad pro-life legislation is the first of its kind in the U.S., though other states have begun following suit, including Florida, where legislators introduced a similar bill earlier this month.
A major pro-life success, the Texas legislation has been responsible for reducing the state’s abortion rate by about half and saving more than 100 babies’ lives each day, according to Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate at Texas Right to Life.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act saves countless babies with beating hearts and protects mothers every day it is in effect,” said Susan B. Anthony List vice president of communications Mallory Quigley.
The Texas Heartbeat Act saves countless babies with beating hearts and protects mothers every day
We stand with AG @KenPaxtonTX and our Texas allies in calling on the Court to make the right decision todayhttps://t.co/pRAvPzSwWG #ModernizeOurLaw
— Susan B. Anthony List #ModernizeOurLaw (@SBAList) November 1, 2021
“Texas proves we can love both – protecting unborn children in the law and serving women and families through initiatives like the state’s $100 million per year Alternatives to Abortion program,” Quigley added. “But for two generations, the U.S. Supreme Court has shackled states like Texas to a radical policy of abortion on demand until birth, well past the point when unborn babies can clearly feel pain. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree this is inhumane.”
Pro-abortion advocates have attacked the Texas Heartbeat Act as a violation of the judicial precedents in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, while pro-life advocates argue that Texas should have the right to make its own laws limiting abortion. Moreover, pro-lifers broadly reject the legitimacy of a “constitutional right” to abortion, arguing that the U.S. Constitution does not in fact protect the killing of unborn children while the fifth and fourteenth amendments specifically affirm the “right to life.”
The Supreme Court’s Friday refusal to throw out the Heartbeat law and Thursday decision to remand the case to a lower court that has been supportive of the measure came just weeks after the top judicial body heard oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case on December 1.
During the oral arguments Mississippi solicitor general Scott Grant Stewart, a former Trump Department of Justice official and law clerk for staunchly pro-life Justice Clarence Thomas, argued for overturning both Roe and Casey.
In Dobbs, the state of Mississippi explicitly contends that judicial precedent asserting a “right” to abortion is “egregiously wrong” with “no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.”