U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to Texas ban on most abortions, but law remains in effect

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge by President Joe Biden’s administration and abortion providers to a restrictive Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion, and set the date for arguments in the case for Nov. 1.

The justices, however, deferred a decision on a request by the administration to block the law while the litigation continues, prompting a dissent from liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” Sotomayor wrote.

The Texas measure, one of a series of restrictive Republican-backed abortion laws passed at the state level in recent years, bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. It makes an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for cases of rape or incest.

The Supreme Court already is set to consider another major abortion case on Dec. 1 in a dispute focusing on Mississippi’s law banning abortions starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy. In that case, Mississippi has asked the justices to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. A ruling is due by the end of June 2022.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, previously allowed the Texas law to be enforced in the challenge brought by abortion providers. In that 5-4 decision on Sept. 1, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts expressed skepticism about how the law is enforced and joined the three liberal justices in dissent.

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