The US Supreme Court will allow Texas to maintain a near-total abortion ban, but will begin the case in a rare expedited trial next month.
The law, known as SB8, gives anyone the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion after six weeks – before most women know they are pregnant.
The Supreme Court said it would focus on how the law was drafted and whether it is legally contestable.
It is extremely rare for the US Supreme Court to rush cases.
Lower courts have yet to make final decisions on the so-called Texas Heartbeat Act.
The controversial law – which makes an exception for a documented medical emergency, but not for cases of rape or incest – prohibits abortions after what some call a fetal heartbeat.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that after six weeks a fetus has not yet developed a heartbeat, but rather an “electrically induced flicker” of the tissue that becomes the heart.
Texas law is enforced by giving anyone, Texas or elsewhere, the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion after six weeks. However, it does not allow the women who will receive the trial to be sued.
The Biden government had previously announced that it would ask the court to block the law. Since the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade case in 1973, US women have had the right to have abortions until a fetus can survive outside the uterus – usually between 22 and 24 weeks of gestation.
The US is one of seven out of 198 countries that allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, according to the Washington Post.
Texas attorneys urged judges in the court to consider overturning the landmark Roe ruling as well as a separate case that upheld the constitutional right to abortion. The court did not allow this request.
The hearing in the case is scheduled for November 1st. The Supreme Court said it would wait for those arguments to be made before taking action.
In a written objection, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the accelerated timeframe would offer “cold comfort” to women in Texas hoping for abortion treatment.
She was the only one of the nine Supreme Court justices to speak out in favor of a short-term freeze on the law.
“Women seeking abortion assistance in Texas are now eligible for discharge in this court,” she wrote. “Because of the court’s inaction today, this discharge, if it comes, will be too late for many.”
The law went into effect in Texas on September 1.
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Abortion providers and defenders of the law had been calling for it to be overturned until the Supreme Court took the case.
Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, tweeted that “the legal limbo is excruciating for both patients and our clinic staff.”
Experts believe the oral arguments may provide some insight into how the Supreme Court will approach other abortion cases.
In December, the Supreme Court is slated to hear a separate case on a Mississippi bill that bans abortions after 15 weeks.