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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson

Overview

Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson (Supreme Court of Texas, Mar. 11, 2022): After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected most challenges to Texas’ novel and restrictive abortion law, SB8, Texas’s Supreme Court rejected remaining challenges against state licensing officials. Generally, courts block unconstitutional restrictions by preventing state actors from enforcing them. However, SB8, which enabled private citizens to enforce a ban on abortions performed after fetal heartbeat detection, was specifically drafted to avoid state enforcement. In December 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed challenges against Texas’s Attorney General and state court clerks and judges on the basis of sovereign immunity and a lack of enforcement power held by these individuals. The Court allowed the suit to proceed against Texas licensing officials, who can discipline licensees that act contrary to Texas state law. In this decision, the Texas Supreme Court concluded the challenges against licensing officials could not proceed, because the “Texas law does not authorize the state-agency executives to enforce the Act’s requirements, either directly or indirectly.” Private civil actions provide the “exclusive” means of enforcing the Act, pursuant to the Act’s text, effectively curtailing pre-enforcement challenges of the law. Read the full decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – April 15, 2022.

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