US 5th Circuit officially ends lawsuit by abortion providers over Senate Bill 8 restrictions in Texas

Update: Updated at 5:10 p.m. with Governor Greg Abbott’s reaction.

As expected, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday formally ended a legal challenge to Senate Bill 8, Texas’ six-week abortion ban signed into law on September 1, which is considered the most restrictive abortion law since the Roe v. Wade decision. in 1973.

The federal challenge is remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss all challenges to the private enforcement provisions of the statute.

The federal challenge was doomed after the 5th Circuit referred the case to the Texas Supreme Court over a question of whether or not state medical licensing officials could reprimand providers who violate the SB 8. The state high court said the law did not authorize such an application.

The state high court ruled that officials cannot revoke licenses because they have no enforcement powers under the law, which is enforced by private citizens.

It was the last narrow avenue left for providers to challenge the law after the United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to their case in its Dec. 10 Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson decision. This decision allowed the challenge to continue, but significantly limited who could be sued.

Many experts and stakeholders believe the fate of the challenge was actually set in December by the US Supreme Court, which upheld it.

Governor Greg Abbott praised the decision on Twitter, calling Senate Bill 8 “a pro-life law that saves babies every day.”

Last week, former state Rep. Wendy Davis filed a federal lawsuit challenging SB 8 and pre-Roe laws. The lawsuit argues that the law violates due process and the plaintiff’s freedom of speech and asks the court to declare unenforceable both that law and the old Texas abortion law.

Since Texas enacted SB 8 last September, many women have traveled to Oklahoma and other states for abortions. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that approximately 1,400 Texans get abortions every month at out-of-state facilities.

Norman D. Briggs