Supreme Courts in Texas, Ohio Block Efforts to Reinstate Access to Abortions
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Texas’s and Ohio’s Supreme Courts have given the go-ahead for the states to enforce their respective state laws that ban abortion, blocking efforts that barred the laws from taking effect, coming after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
Roe v. Wade had enabled abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy across the country for almost five decades. The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 sends regulation of the procedure back to states.
Judge Christine Weems in Harris County on June 28 had issued a temporary restraining order to block the enforcement of the 1925 Texas law that bans abortion unless necessary to save the life of the mother.
Abortions in Texas were already restricted under a law that took effect in September 2021, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act or Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8). Weems’s order had reassured some clinics they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks, which is roughly when a heartbeat is detectable in the unborn baby.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, announced on June 30 he sought emergency relief from the Texas Supreme Court by asking it to vacate the temporary restraining order.
A later hearing on the case is scheduled for July 12.
Julia Kaye, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representing the Texas abortion clinics challenging the ban, said in a statement that the group “won’t stop fighting to ensure that as many people as possible, for as long as possible” can access abortion.
Six-Week Abortion Restriction Continues in Ohio
Over in Ohio, the state’s top court on Friday denied (pdf) an emergency request by abortion providers to block the Ohio abortion ban, known as Senate Bill 23. The measure prohibits abortion after a detectable heartbeat in the unborn baby—about six weeks into pregnancy, which is when many women do not realize they are pregnant.
The court’s denial of the emergency stay means abortion providers are legally barred from carrying out the procedures after six weeks as litigation continues.
Ohio’s Senate Bill 23 was signed into law back in April 2019 by Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, before a federal judge blocked it from being enforced three months later. Due to the injunction, abortions in Ohio went back to an already existing law that largely barred abortion after 22 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger, or her health was affected.
Less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked a federal judge to let the state’s 2019 abortion ban to take effect. Hours later, the judge granted Yost’s request by eliminating the injunction against Ohio Senate Bill 23.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe “represents a substantial change in the law, and abrogates the prior legal basis supporting this Court’s Order enjoining enforcement of the challenged law,” he said in a motion. Ohio would be “irreparably harmed” by any delay in dissolving the injunction, Yost had argued.
Ohio abortion providers responded by filing a lawsuit asking the state’s Supreme Court to find the new six-week ban unconstitutional and restore the previous 22-week abortion ban. The abortion providers argued that the Ohio Constitution guarantees a “fundamental right to abortion” under its broad protections for individual liberties.
“Races don’t start at the finish line, and lawsuits don’t start in the final court,” Yost on June 29 said in a statement commenting on the lawsuit. “Aside from filing the wrong action in the wrong court, they are wrong as well on Ohio law. Abortion is not in the Ohio Constitution.”
“Make no mistake, any contention that Ohio’s constitution confers such a right is indefensible, no matter the theory of constitutional interpretation one might embrace,” Yost said in a response (pdf) filed to the court.
In a statement after the Ohio Supreme Court denied the emergency request, Yost said his office “will continue to defend Ohio’s duly enacted statutes and to advocate for the rule of law.”
“The Plaintiffs need to reconcile themselves to pursuing their policy goals through the political process, not the courts,” he added.
Since last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, groups that believe abortion is a right have filed challenges against laws banning abortion in several states.
Judges in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Utah have barred the abortion restrictions or bans from being enforced. Meanwhile, challenges to abortion trigger laws are pending in Idaho, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.