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Texas’s Heartbeat Law heard by Texas Supreme Court

by | Feb 24, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

The Texas Supreme Court today heard a vigorous defense of a key aspect of S.B.8 and an equally spirited critique of Texas’s Heartbeat Law. 

What was before the court was the narrow but important question of enforcement. “Lawyers representing the abortion providers have sought to prove that there is state enforcement, which would give them an avenue to seek an injunction to stop the law from being enforced,” The Texas Tribune’s Eleanor Klibanoff wrote. “They argued that the law is enforced by court clerks who docket the lawsuits, judges who hear them, the state’s attorney general and others.”

The Supreme Court, in its December 10th opinion, said the legal challenge could continue but only against Texas licensing officials who oversee nurses, physicians and pharmacists. The justices then send the question back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. which in turn sent the law on to the Texas Supreme Court to “weigh in on a question of state law before the appeals court proceeds with its ruling.”

Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone filed a brief earlier this month.

Lawyers for the state argue that the law clearly states that public officials cannot enforce the abortion restriction, and thus, the U.S. Supreme Court erred in allowing this question to proceed through the courts.

“The Legislature did not go to such lengths to specify that SB 8 may be enforced only through private civil actions merely to allow ‘indirect enforcement’ of SB 8 through various medical regulatory statutes,” wrote Stone.

The Heartbeat Law took effect September 1 and, with the exception of Judge Pitman’ short stay, has been in effect ever since. There is no question that the law has already saved thousands of unborn babies’ lives.

Updated  statistics  from Texas Health and Human Services “show[ed] the number of abortions reported in the state decreased almost 60% in the first month after new restrictions went into effect,” according to BeLynn Hollers of The Dallas Morning News.

“There were 2,197 abortions reported in Texas the first month after the new law went into effect Sept. 1, compared to 5,404 in August 2021,” Hollers reported.

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