By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — In a late-night decision Sept. 1, the Supreme Court ruled against blocking a Texas law banning abortions at six weeks of pregnancy.
The 5-4 vote, issued with a one-paragraph unsigned opinion, said the challengers to the Texas law — which went into effect Sept. 1 — did not adequately address the “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” in this case.
“This order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’ law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the opinion said, leaving open the possibility that the state’s abortion providers could challenge it in other ways.
The Texas abortion providers had come to the Supreme Court with an emergency appeal to stop the law, but the court initially did not respond.
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, became effective at midnight central time Sept. 1. It is one of the strictest abortion measures in the country, banning abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat is detectable. The law has an exception for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest.
The night before this took effect, court watchers on both sides of the issue kept vigil at the Supreme Court waiting for an order that never came. Abortion providers in the state had argued that the law would prevent about 85% of abortions in the state and will likely cause many clinics to close.
Currently, at least 12 other states have legislation banning abortions early in pregnancy, but these bans have been blocked by courts.
The law adds to a growing network of support for pregnant mothers and their families, the bishops of Texas said in a statement released Sept. 3. The full statement from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops follows.
This week in Texas a law protecting the unborn from abortion, once a heartbeat is detected, went into effect. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a prolife law to remain while litigation proceeds in lower courts.
We celebrate every life saved by this legislation. Opponents of the law argue the term “heartbeat” is misleading. They call it “embryonic cardiac activity” or worse, “electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue.” These attempts to dehumanize the unborn are disturbing.
Abortion is a human rights issue; the most fundamental human right is the right to life. Abortion is not healthcare. Abortion is not freedom. Abortion does not help women. Abortion is never the answer. It is always the violent taking of innocent human life.
We cannot turn away and say that, since the killing of another person takes place within the body of a woman, we as a society should not care, any more than when someone is killed within the privacy of a home or in a public venue.
Texas has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in programs for pregnant moms and families through the abortion alternatives program. Hundreds of pregnancy and parenting support programs and adoption services in our state provide practical resources to women and families facing overwhelming circumstances. Women can contact the Texas Pregnancy Care Network at www.texaspregnancy.org or 877-345-7734 to find help in their local Texas community.
Pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our parishes and our neighborhoods. As Pope Francis reminds us, our parishes must be “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.” Everyone in the parish should know where to refer a pregnant woman in need. The U.S. Catholic bishops’ nationwide program, Walking with Moms in Need, also helps parishes nurture and protect life. Anywhere in the country, Catholics can sign up to Walk with Moms in Need at www.walkingwithmoms.com. For women and men suffering due to an abortion, there is hope and healing through ministries such as Project Rachel and Raphael’s Refuge. God’s mercy is limitless and is for everyone.
We remain committed to assisting in and praying for the conversion of hearts and minds so all people will respect the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.