People walk past the U.S. Supreme Court on the day the Washington court will issue orders and statements on June 1, 2021.
Erin Scott | Reuters
The Supreme Court declined to block a Texas law banning most abortions in a 5-4 ruling late Wednesday.
Chief Justice John Roberts and the three court-appointed Democrats, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, disagreed.
The “Heartbeat” law went into effect in Texas on Wednesday after midnight. It bans most abortions as early as six weeks of gestation – when many women do not yet know they are pregnant – and enables private individuals to bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers.
Sotomayor called the decision “breathtaking” and said Texas law violated nearly 50 years of federal precedent.
“In a motion for blatantly unconstitutional law aimed at banning women from exercising their constitutional rights and evading judicial scrutiny, a majority of judges chose to stick their heads in the sand,” wrote she.
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On Monday, a group of abortion providers and advocates, including Planned Parenthood, filed an emergency motion to block implementation of the law. The petitioners said the law would set Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that enshrined the right of women to choose an abortion.
In response, a group of Texas officials, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, urged the Supreme Court to reject their opponents’ offer to thwart the law, calling the request “bold”.
“Unparalleled” enforcement system
SB 8 was enacted in May by Republican Governor Greg Abbott. It prohibits doctors from performing or having abortions after they “detect a fetal heartbeat in the unborn child” except in medical emergencies.
Roberts wrote that the law was “not only unusual but unprecedented” in that it delegated enforcement to the public rather than state officials.
“The desired consequence seems to be to relieve the state of responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of the regulatory regime,” he wrote.
The new law gives individuals the power to bring civil actions against abortion providers or anyone who “assists or aids” the procedures after a heartbeat is detected. These lawsuits can earn a minimum of $ 10,000 in “legal damages” per abortion.
Sotomayor said, “Indeed, the Texas legislature has represented the citizens of the state as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical practices.”
This is the latest news. Please check again for updates.
– CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.