Supreme Court (Mostly) Greenlights Texas's Unique Pro-life Law

December 10, 2021

Over a month after an expedited oral argument schedule, the Supreme Court today finally ruled in the much anticipated Texas Heartbeat Act case. There were actually two different decisions issued today. First, the Court entirely dismissed the Biden administration's attempt to challenge Texas, noting that the case had been wrongly accepted to begin with. Second, the Court issued a more complicated, longer opinion in Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson that was mostly a win for pro-lifers.

What is the outcome of that second opinion? First and foremost, the Texas Heartbeat Act is still in effect--which means hundreds of babies will continue to survive thanks to this law. We are looking forward to hearing the stories of babies whose lives were saved, and desperate women feeling the pressure to have an abortion (but in hindsight so thankful for this law and the additional support it provided). Thousands of lives have already been saved in Texas.

The justices were split on exactly what lawsuits are able to proceed to challenge the Texas Heartbeat Act. Justice Thomas would not have let the abortion supporters sue in any instance. However, the remaining eight justices all agreed that the abortion providers could sue the licensing officials in the state of Texas (but can't sue other Texas officials). This doesn't seem to be a huge win for abortion supporters. First, it's likely the law could easily be re-written to make it clear that licensing officials are not in charge of administering SB 8. Second, since the Supreme Court would defer to the state's interpretation of their own law, the licensing officials could state they are interpreting the law to not place them in charge of anything pertaining to SB 8. We will have to stay tuned to see how this plays out.

The liberal justices and Justice Roberts (who has started voting in lock-step with the liberal justices) would have let the suit continue against state judges and state clerks. Writing for the Court here, Justice Gorsuch does a great job explaining how a host of problems would ensue if this were permitted. All nine justices agreed that the abortion facilities had no standing to sue the private individual who claimed he had no intention of suing over this law.

Part of this case was sent back to the lower courts, and as of now, suits are permitted to continue against the licensing officials. It's clear that this is not the end of the litigation over the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, it's also apparent that this bill was a brilliant and so far, successful, attempt to protect thousands of lives. While it's impossible to know what the Supreme Court will ever do, today's result is promising for Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health.

Reading between the lines today, the Court noted that they were not ruling on the substance of the law -- but the Court also made it clear that they are fine with abortion essentially being banned in a state. We finally have a Supreme Court that is done giving a pass to the abortion industry. We praise God for a hard-fought victory and for the tangible impact this is making on saving the most innocent among us--unborn children.