The challenges come from the U.S. Justice Department and a group of abortion providers.
The law, which effectively bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, has ricocheted around the courts since it went into effect on Sept. 1. On three other occasions, courts have allowed the restrictive ban to stay in place. One court moved to put it on hold, but that order only stood for 48 hours.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an opinion agreeing with the court’s decision to hear the case but dissenting with the decision not to block the law while the legal challenges play out.
“For the second time, the Court declines to act immediately to protect these women from grave and irreparable harm,” she wrote.
Letting the law stand will leave many patients in an impossible situation, she added.
“As I write these words, some of those women do not know they are pregnant,” she wrote. “When they find out, should they wish to exercise their constitutional right to seek abortion care, they will be unable to do so anywhere in their home State.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who heads the Justice Department, has called the law “clearly unconstitutional” and warned of a grim future in which dozens of other states use the law as a model for their own bans if the courts don’t strike it down.
The ban has had a devastating effect on Texans seeking abortions. Many patients are not even aware of their pregnancies that early in the term, and accessing the procedure out of state can require significant travel costs.
“It feels inhumane to have to comply with this law,” Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood’s Houston clinic, told HuffPost earlier this week.
The law also deputizes citizens, not the state, to enforce the ban, and offers a $10,000 bounty to anyone who successfully sues people “aiding or abetting” patients seeking abortions in the state. The courts have cited that caveat ― which separates it from other states’ attempts at a six-week ban ― as the reason the law could not be blocked before it went into effect.