Texas Supreme Court shuts down challenge to pro-life law

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that state officials do not have a role in enforcing a pro-life law that bans most abortions after a baby’s heartbeat is detected.

The ruling effectively ends a legal challenge to the law, which allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman who successfully obtains an abortion after her unborn child’s cardiac activity can be detected — usually at around six weeks — for $10,000.

“By empowering everyday people and expressly banning enforcement by state officials, the law, known as S.B. 8, was designed to escape judicial review in federal court,” The New York Times reported. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the law, saying “that because state officials were not responsible for enforcing the law it could not be challenged in federal court based on the constitutional protections established by” the 1973 precedent set in Roe v. Wade, the outlet added.

As Politico noted, the U.S. Supreme Court did keep pro-abortion advocates’ federal challenge to the law alive by ruling that “abortion providers might be able to press their litigation against state medical licensing officials because of an argument that they have a role in enforcing the statute.”

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit then heard the challenge, but asked the Texas Supreme Court to determine whether or not the law empowered state officials to enforce it.

The answer is no, the state Supreme Court said in its ruling Friday, as the Washington Examiner reported.

“We address in this case a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, asking whether Texas law authorizes certain state officials to directly or indirectly enforce the state’s new abortion-restriction requirements. We conclude it does not,” the ruling said.

“The act’s emphatic, unambiguous and repeated provisions” allow for only private parties to file suit under the law, the court said.

“These provisions deprive the state-agency executives of any authority they might otherwise have to enforce the requirements through a disciplinary action,” the justices added. “We cannot rewrite the statute.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the ruling on Twitter.

“Today I secured a major victory in the Texas Supreme Court re. the Texas Heartbeat Act (SB 8),” he wrote. “This measure, which has saved thousands of unborn babies, remains fully in effect, and the pro-abortion plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the state is essentially finished. TEXAS IS PRO-LIFE!”

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz expressed similar sentiments.

“We’ve known that this lawsuit all along was just invalid and should have been dismissed, and now the fact that we’re on that trajectory now is encouraging,” she told The Times.