Texas Supreme Court paves way for strict abortion law to remain in place

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The Texas Supreme Court on Friday paved the way for the nation’s toughest abortion law to remain in place in a ruling that again deflated clinics’ hopes of stopping – or even pausing – the restrictions anytime soon.

The ruling by the all-Republican court is the latest defeat for Texas abortion providers, which have now lost at both the U.S. Supreme Court and the state’s highest court since a ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy took effect in September.

It is likely to further embolden other Republican-controlled states that are now pressing forward with similar laws, including neighboring Oklahoma, where many Texas women have crossed state lines to get an abortion for the past six months. The Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate on Thursday approved a half-dozen anti-abortion measures, including a Texas-style ban.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court turned on whether medical licensing officials had an enforcement role under the law known as Senate Bill 8, and therefore, could be sued by clinics that are reaching for any possible way to halt the restrictions.

But writing for the court, Justice Jeffrey Boyd said those state officials have no enforcement authority, “either directly or indirectly.”

Texas abortion providers did not immediately comment on the ruling but had already acknowledged they were running out of options and that the law would stay in place for the foreseeable future.

Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, celebrated the decision.

“This is a big victory for the TX Heartbeat Act!” the group’s media director, Kimberlyn Schwartz, said on Twitter.  “We have said from the beginning that abortionists’ lawsuit should be dismissed, and we’re grateful that the law will continue saving thousands of lives.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has signaled in a separate case out of Mississippi that it would roll back abortion rights, and possibly overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, in a ruling that is expected later this year.

The number of monthly abortions in Texas fell by more than 50% in the two months after the law took effect, according to state health figures. But that data only tells part of the story, and researchers say the number of Texas women who are going online to get abortion pills by mail has risen sharply.

The Texas law makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

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