On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court dealt a major legal blow to the pro-choice community when it ruled against a coalition of abortion clinics in a high-profile case involving the state's heartbeat abortion ban.
The justices, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, ruled that the heads of four state boards – the Texas Medical Board, Texas Board of Nursing, Texas Board of Pharmacy and Texas Health and Human Services Commission – do not have the authority to enforce the law, which prohibits abortions when an unborn baby's heartbeat is detected.
The law, which went into effect last year, gives sole enforcement authority to private citizens, who are allowed to sue abortion doctors who violate the law.
A pro-choice coalition led by Whole Woman's Health had sued the four government officials, hoping to block enforcement of the law.
"We conclude that Texas law does not authorize the state-agency executives to enforce the Act's requirements, either directly or indirectly," the Texas Supreme Court opinion said.
The law's text says it "may be enforced by a private civil action, that no state official may bring or participate as a party in any such action, that such an action is the exclusive means to enforce the requirements, and that these restrictions apply notwithstanding any other law," the decision said.
"Based on these provisions, we conclude that Texas law does not grant the state-agency executives named as defendants in this case any authority to enforce the Act's requirements, either directly or indirectly," the opinion said.
The lawsuit was a last-gasp attempt by opponents to block the law, which the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to block. The U.S. Supreme Court last December gave the green light for abortion providers to continue their lawsuit against the four employees.
"The Texas Supreme Court's ruling should lead to the dismissal of the abortion providers' lawsuit," wrote Ed Whelan, a distinguished senior fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center at NationalReview.com.
Texas Right to Life celebrated the news.
"This is a big victory for the TX Heartbeat Act!" Texas Right to Life media director Kimberlyn Schwartz said in a tweet. "We have said from the beginning that abortionists' lawsuit should be dismissed, and we're grateful that the law will continue saving thousands of lives."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Olga Kurbatova
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.