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October 26, 2021

SCOTUS Fast-Tracks Texas Fetal Heartbeat Case

The Court will soon hear oral arguments on one of three significant laws that impact abortion.

At the end of last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to speed up addressing a challenge to Texas’s recently passed SB 8, a law that is designed to severely limit abortions in the Lone Star State. Emergency court-ordered injunctions against implementation of the law requested by pro-abortion advocates have failed to stick, and SCOTUS has ruled that the law with remain in effect until the case is fully heard and ruled on by the justices.

This was despite strenuous objections from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who lamented the Court’s decision was “enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas.” Actually, protecting the lives of preborn girls and boys goes a much longer way toward protecting the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness outlined in our Declaration of Independence than does insisting without constitutional support that abortion is a constitutional “right,” but we digress.

In fast-tracking oral arguments for the Texas law, SCOTUS is jumping ahead of the lower courts to issue a decision, likely due to the fact that the Court is also scheduled to hear a more direct challenge to Roe v. Wade that holds the potential of resulting in a landmark ruling. That case is Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is a lawsuit against Mississippi’s “heartbeat bill” that effectively bans abortion in the state at 15 weeks gestation except “in a medical emergency or in case of severe fetal abnormality.”

By agreeing to fast-track the Texas case, SCOTUS bowed to the request of the Biden administration to “leap-frog” other cases. It’s unusual for abortion-related cases not to receive special treatment from the courts, so while the justices didn’t uphold an injunction against the law, they still are willing to move on it quickly, perhaps because the law’s enforcement mechanism — private lawsuits rather than government action — is so unique.

The Court will hear oral arguments on November 1.

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