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Supreme Court leaves Texas abortion ban in place, but allows challenge to go on

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Supreme Court leaves Texas abortion ban in place, but allows challenge to go on
Demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on December 1 as the court heard arguments in a Mississippi abortion case. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Friday to leave in place Texas' restrictive new abortion ban, but also ruled that a lawsuit seeking to strike the law down can proceed.

The high court voted 8-1 to allow the suit to continue. However, it did not take action to block or reject the Texas law, which bars abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as little as six weeks.

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The Texas law is enforced by private citizens through lawsuits against doctors and clinics that perform abortions. The law comes with a $10,000 penalty against any defendant found to violate it.

"The court holds that the petitioners may bring a pre-enforcement challenge in federal court as one means to test [the law's] compliance with the federal Constitution," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

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Friday's decision by the court does not address whether the Texas ban is unconstitutional. It also allows abortion clinics in Texas to sue over the law.

Aside from a brief pause ordered by a lower federal court, the law has been in effect since Sept. 1.

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Some experts think it's likely the Texas case will return to the Supreme Court at some point to decide renewed challenges to the law.

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On Thursday, a lower court judge in Texas ruled that the law is unconstitutional. An anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, immediately filed an appeal in that case.

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a different case relating to abortion from Mississippi. The law in that state bans abortions after 15 weeks. A ruling in that case is expected between now and the end of the court's current term in June.

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