Supreme Court refuses again to block Texas abortion law in setback for Biden administration

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday refused again to put on hold a Texas abortion law that makes it illegal for doctors to end a pregnancy after about six weeks. Instead, the justices said they will hear arguments next month on whether the Justice Department has standing to sue Texas over a law that denies women the right to choose abortion. The outcome is mostly a setback for the Biden administration and abortion rights advocates.

They had asked the court to block the law as constitutional and procedural issues were weighed. Instead, the court, over a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, allowed the law to remain in effect. And the justices said they would weigh only the procedural issues, not the question of whether the Texas law is constitutional. The Biden administration had argued that Texas was using a private bounty scheme to deny women their constitutional rights.

The Texas Heartbeat Act, known also as Senate Bill 8, authorizes private lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. State and local officials have no role in enforcing the law, but the threat of lawsuits has shut down most abortions in Texas.

It takes the votes of five justices to block or suspend a law, and it appears the court’s conservatives continue to doubt whether abortion rights advocates, including the Justice Department, can challenge a law that relies on future lawsuits by unknown individuals.

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