The Texas Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision on Friday in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. The court ruled that the Texas law does not authorize certain state officials to enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits abortionists from committing an abortion if the preborn child has a detectable heartbeat. This ruling effectively brings the legal challenge of the Act by abortionists at Whole Woman’s Health to a close.
The court stated that the Heartbeat Act “does not authorize the state-agency executives to enforce the Act’s requirements, either directly or indirectly,” and determined that the Act is enforceable by private civil action and that no state official may participate in that action. Read the full decision and reasoning here.
#BREAKING: Texas Supreme Court answers question certified by the Fifth Circuit and unanimously holds that state licensing officials do *not* have the ability to enforce #SB8.
The gist: The providers' suit against state defendants is now effectively over:https://t.co/Ry9pJPdIYC
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) March 11, 2022
Whole Woman’s Health had requested “a declaration that the Act unconstitutionally restricts their rights and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing its requirements,” states the court. Those defendants included the Texas Board of Nursing, the Texas Medical Board, the executive director of the Texas Board of Pharmacy, and the executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, who moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing sovereign immunity and lack of standing. Essentially, they argued that the lawsuit could not stand because the Act does not give them any authority to enforce it either directly or indirectly.
The federal district court as well as the United States Supreme Court disagreed with the defendants and denied dismissal of the case. It was remanded back to the Fifth Circuit, which asked the specific question of whether or not the defendants [certain state officials] could take action against abortionists, or any individuals, who violate the Heartbeat Act and commit or help to secure an abortion on a preborn child with a detectable heartbeat.
According to attorney Steve Vladeck, “The [abortion] providers’ suit against state defendants is now effectively over.”
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