Texas (Times Of Ocean)- A Texas high court on Friday effectively ended clinics’ challenge to a state law that banned most abortions in that state by determining that state officials, including those in charge of licensing doctors, have no role in enforcing the law.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled that only private citizens, not state officials, can enforce SB8 by suing any person who performs or assists a woman in obtaining an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In December, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed only against those same licensing officials and not others, but left the ban intact.
Suing officials would have allowed clinics to overcome a unique feature of the law that has prevented them from challenging it in federal court since private citizens would be responsible for enforcing it, rather than state officials.
Clinics are seeking an injunction to prevent officials from enforcing the law, which took effect Sept. 1 and prohibits abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo. The maximum award for successful lawsuits is $10,000.
Clinicians argue the law violates Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, and the US Supreme Court is considering rolling back or overturning it in a Mississippi case.
Following the Supreme Court’s December ruling, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals asked the Republican-dominated Texas Supreme Court to consider whether licensing officials could indirectly enforce the law by taking disciplinary actions against violators.
On Friday, Justice Jeffrey Boyd, writing for the unanimous nine-member court, said no. “Texas law does not grant the state-agency executives named as defendants in this case any authority to enforce the Act’s requirements.”
The case now goes to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but abortion rights groups say the ruling means their high-profile case is now over. Other challenges to the law are pending.
“With this ruling, the sliver of this case that we were left with is gone,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the clinics, said in a statement.