“Having received the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court that named official defendants may not enforce the provisions of the Texas Heartbeat Act … this court REMANDS the case with instructions to dismiss all challenges to the private enforcement provisions of the statute and to consider whether plaintiffs have standing to challenge,” said the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its ruling.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to intervene regarding a provision of the law that allows private citizens rather than government officials to sue abortion providers or anyone else who assists a pregnant woman in receiving an abortion after six weeks. Litigants can file a lawsuit in any Texas court and are eligible for at least $10,000 in damages.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8, was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last May. It went into effect in September 2021 and several other states have moved to pass similar measures.
Since it went into effect, abortions in Texas have dropped significantly. According to data released by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, there were 5,404 abortions in August 2021, but by September 2021, there were 2,197 abortions.
Kim Schwartz, a spokeswoman for pro-life group Texas Right to Life, praised the court ruling on Tuesday.
“The Fifth Circuit’s instruction to dismiss the challenge to the Texas Heartbeat Act’s enforcement mechanism confirms what Texas Right to Life has known since the beginning: the abortion industry’s legal attacks are meritless,” she told LifeNews.
Meanwhile, a former Texas state senator, Wendy Davis, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit against the law and claimed it’s “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“S.B. 8 seeks not only to strip Texans of their fundamental right to make decisions about their pregnancies, based on their individual circumstances and religious beliefs, but also to make a mockery of the federal courts,” she wrote in a legal challenge earlier this month.
She further argued that Texas is in ” brazen defiance of the rule of law” and should “restore the ability of abortion funds and their associates to fully serve Texas abortion patients.”
Separately, the Supreme Court is slated to rule this year on the legality of a law in Mississippi that bans abortion after 15 weeks. The state asked the high court to take up the case last year. Meanwhile, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch asked the justices in a filing to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling so the state can uphold its law.