What SCOTUS Inaction Means for the Texas Abortion Ban

Jan 13, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court is declining to take up a case involving abortion.

State officials in Arizona were appealing a lower court’s decision to strike down a state law that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. But does the high court’s decision not to take up the case have implications on any future challenges to the 20-week ban that went into effect in Texas last year?

University of Texas Law Professor Sanford Levinson says you can't infer anything from the Supreme Court refusal to take the case, and the decision doesn’t say much with respect to the new Texas law.

"I think it’s fair to say the Texas litigants should get very, very mild encouragement from this, but it would be a mistake to read too much into it," Levinson says, adding that all it means is that the Court isn’t getting involved for the moment.

Gretchen Borchelt agrees it’s hard to read into the decision because the Justices didn’t write any comments. But Borchelt, a state reproductive health policy expert at the National Women’s Law Center, hopes there’s more to it.

"I’m hopeful that what they’re doing is giving a signal to other courts that might be considering this that they should continue to decide these to unconstitutional and this might put an end to other politicians trying to pass these types of bans," she says.

Twenty-week bans on abortion have not been challenged in nine states. They have been challenged in three – Arizona, Georgia and Idaho — where all were found to be unconstitutional.