Texas Supreme Court Throws Out Final Senate Bill 8 Challenge

Paving the road to the end

Women's March ATX at the Texas State Capitol on October 2, 2021, a month after SB 8 went into effect (Photo by John Anderson)

The most promising lawsuit against Texas' ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, enacted in the last lege session as SB 8, met its end Friday, March 11, with a Texas Supreme Court decision that virtually ensures that the ban remains in effect.

"This is another devastating injustice, and people will continue to be denied the basic human dignity of being able to control their own body," Julia Kaye, staff attorney at ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement.

The case has been moving through courts since it was filed last July; plaintiffs included Whole Woman's Health, 11 Planned Parent­hood health centers throughout Texas, individual doctors, and other advocates. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block SB 8 several times before dismissing most of the case in January in a decision that Sonya Sotomayor's dissent called "a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas." The only part of the case that the high court allowed to move forward named the Texas Medical Board and other state licensing officials as defendants. The Texas Supreme Court's ruling leaves no other defendants against whom the case can proceed.

The nationwide consequences of Texas' abortion ban legislation are already apparent. On March 14, Idaho became the first state in the nation to pass copycat legislation that blocks access to abortions by allowing private citizens to sue people who seek or aid in abortions. The Idaho state House voted 51 to 14 to pass their version of the ban, SB 1309.

“The situation is becoming increasingly dire.” – Amy Hagstrom Miller

"The situation is becoming increasingly dire," Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, said in a statement. "And now neighboring states – where we have been sending patients – are about to pass similar bans. Where will Texans go then? The more states that pass these bans, the harder it will be for anyone in this region to get abortion care. Texans deserve better."

Data from Planned Parenthood evidences just how many people the ban pushed out of state to end their pregnancies. Clinics in neighboring states saw an 800% increase in Texas patients during the first few months after SB 8 was enacted on Sept. 1, and patients from Texas ZIP codes made up more than half of patients at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Oklahoma, data released in February shows.

Likewise, requests for self-managed abortion medication from the telemedicine nonprofit Aid Access increased by 1,180% in September 2021, according to a study published Feb. 25 in the medical journal JAMA Network Open. That number jumped from roughly 11 requests per day in the year before SB 8 passed, to 138 requests per day in September of 2021.

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Read more of the Chronicle's decades of reproductive rights reporting here.

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