Threat of Supreme Court ruling on Texas law goes beyond abortion


At a moment when abortion rights across the nation are in peril, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday allowing abortion providers to challenge a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks might seem like a hopeful development for those who still believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies.

Yet for those hoping the court would reverse its Sept. 1 decision allowing the law to go into effect, the justices’ divided ruling provides little solace. Not only did the court allow the law to stand, it only barely cracked open a window for challenges, which are complicated because it hasn’t been clear who plaintiffs would sue under a novel law that lets citizens take other citizens to court for any perceived violations.

In an 8-1 decision, the high court, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, allowed abortion providers to challenge the Texas law by suing state licensing officials who are authorized to take disciplinary actions against providers who violate the law, but declined in a 5-4 vote to let abortion providers sue other state officials such as judges, court clerks and the Texas attorney general.

The result is, at best, a Pyrrhic victory for abortion rights, one that still leaves open the very legitimate possibility that other states will attempt to pass similar legislation allowing anyone to bring a lawsuit in state court against anyone who performs an abortion or helps to make one possible.