On January 20, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down a procedural companion decision to Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, bearing the name In re Whole Woman’s Health. These decisions concern Texas abortion law S.B. 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and facilitators under certain circumstances.
This new legal decision was a procedural victory that allowed S.B. 8 to stay in effect. While In re Whole Woman’s Health is secondary to the Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson challenge, it does play its part in the greater context of saving lives.
The Legal Background for In re Whole Woman’s Health
This battle started with S.B. 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, in which the Texas Legislature outlawed all abortions upon unborn children with detectable cardiac activity, approximately six weeks after conception. The Texas law purposely avoids enforcement by state officials in favor of private citizens to avoid challenges in the federal courts, which must follow SCOTUS precedent, and therefore favor abortion. Thus, pro-abortionists cannot bring the State of Texas to court since it is not involved in enforcement. This crafty legal maneuver also passes constitutional muster and is not about to go away.
The showdown in the Supreme Court to decide much of S.B. 8’s fate resulted in a set of mixed results for pro-lifers. While abortion providers cannot sue most state officials, they are allowed to sue state medical licensing officials, ensuring that the fight over S.B. 8’s legality will continue. A vital aspect of the SCOTUS decision is that the law will stay in effect throughout the long and slow process of appeal. A final piece of good news is that the court dismissed the Department of Justice’s separate legal challenge over S.B. 8.
The Supreme Court’s Decision: Another Helpful Delay for Life
The new setback of In re Whole Woman’s Health may appear to be a minor addition, but it has value. The Supreme Court ordered the lawsuit against S.B. 8 back to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. Pro-abortion groups argued that the case should return to the original lower court in Texas to expedite legal proceedings.
However, by sending the case back to the Court of Appeals, the majority kept the law in effect, thus saving unborn lives. The dissenting justices in In re Whole Woman’s Health reveal that S.B. 8 was purposely sent back to the Fifth Circuit to give this law the biggest possible chance to survive. The ruling shows that both the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit Court consider the law legitimate by allowing it to stay in effect.
Both Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson and In re Whole Woman’s Health clearly shows that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has some sympathy for the Texas law. The frustration of the dissenting Justices manifests the sagging morale of pro-abortion forces.
Current Situation of S.B. 8 and future implications for the Pro-Life Cause
Currently, S.B. 8 sits in limbo, facing significant challenges. However, the law is already having its desired effects. The website for Texas Health and Human Services reports a significant decrease in abortions in Texas. Monthly totals have declined by 56%.
The effectiveness of any effort can be judged by the effect upon the other side. Pro-abortion forces are demoralized by the law and see it as a step to overturning Roe v. Wade. Hackers have attacked the Texas Right to Life website. Others have pressured web hosting companies to force the site offline. The media are panicking about the future of abortion, placing some of the blame upon the Texas law. Other states are seeking to enact similar legislation.
The Supreme Court’s Decision Should Hearten Us as We Fight for an Abortion-Free America
The Texas Heartbeat Act has continued to exist and save lives almost half a year after passing. This is a good beginning to the end of abortion. However, the battle is not over. With more legal challenges battles on the horizon, prolifers need to hold firm in supporting S.B. 8 and explaining why it is a just law. The pro-life movement must march forward with each bit of legislation and every legal victory towards a future where procured abortion will be defeated.
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