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SCOTUS Returns Texas Abortion Law Case Back to Appeals Court

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has formally returned a lawsuit over Texas’ six-week abortion ban, S.B. 8, back to a federal appeals court, the Associated Press reported Thursday. 


Justice Neil Gorsuch, on Thursday, signed the Court’s order that granted the request of the abortion clinics in the lawsuit to have the case acted on quickly. But, the clinics wanted the case, Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson, sent directly back to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama-era appointee, who previously blocked the law’s enforcement after it took effect Sept. 1. 

When Pitman blocked the enforcement of S.B. 8, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals countermanded his order days later. 

“Texas has said it will seek to keep the case bottled up at the appeals court for the foreseeable future,” the AP noted in their report.

“The Supreme Court left only a small sliver of our case intact, and it’s clear that this part of the case will not block vigilante lawsuits from being filed. It’s also clear that Texas is determined to stop the plaintiffs from getting any relief in even the sliver of the case that is left,” Marc Hearron, the Center for Reproductive Rights lawyer who represented the clinics at SCOTUS, told the AP.


In addition to banning abortions statewide after fetal heartbeat detection, which occurs around six weeks gestation, S.B. 8 allows private citizens to pursue legal action against anyone who provides an illegal abortion or abets a woman seeking an illegal abortion. Those who successfully bring lawsuits under S.B. 8 can receive $10,000.

Both Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued over S.B. 8. Both cases were heard at SCOTUS in November. As I covered last week, the Court did not allow the DOJ’s lawsuit to move forward, but ruled that abortion providers could challenge S.B. 8 in federal court.

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