WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously ruled that state officials lack authority to enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act, ending a legal challenge to the statute brought by Texas abortion providers. The justices held that the Texas Heartbeat Act may be enforced only through civil-enforcement lawsuits filed by private citizens, leaving abortion providers without any state officials to sue.
The Court’s ruling paves the way for other states to enact abortion restrictions that replicate the novel enforcement mechanism in the Texas Heartbeat Act, which immunizes state abortion laws from pre-enforcement judicial review and allows states to outlaw or restrict abortion despite the continued existence of Roe v. Wade.
Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd wrote on behalf of the unanimous court: “Senate Bill 8 (Texas Heartbeat) provides that its requirements may be enforced by a private civil action, that no state official may bring or participate as a party in any such action, that such an action is the exclusive means to enforce the requirements, and that these restrictions apply notwithstanding any other law. Based on these provisions, we conclude that Texas law does not grant the state-agency executives named as defendants in this case any authority to enforce the Act’s requirements, either directly or indirectly.”
AFL has vigorously defended the legality of the Texas Heartbeat Act in state and federal court, arguing that abortion providers lack standing to sue state officials because no state official is charged with enforcing the law. The state supreme court’s ruling emphatically vindicates what AFL has argued from the outset of the litigation: The Texas Heartbeat Act is not subject to pre-enforcement challenge because there are no state officials that enforce the statute, and therefore no one for abortion providers to sue in a pre-enforcement lawsuit.
Statement From America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel Gene Hamilton:
“This unanimous decision from the Supreme Court of Texas is an emphatic and resounding victory for the Texas Heartbeat Act and the right-to-life movement. It is now clear that every state in America may outlaw or restrict abortion in any manner they wish, despite the continued existence of Roe v. Wade, as long as they incorporate the private civil-enforcement mechanism in the Texas Heartbeat Act. The right to abortion that the Supreme Court invented in Roe v. Wade is crumbling, and Texas has shown the way for other pro-life states to circumvent that lawless and unconstitutional court decision,” Gene Hamilton said.
Read the ruling here.
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