The Supreme Court handed social conservatives a huge victory on Wednesday by letting stand a Texas law that effectively bans all abortions in the state. The statute, known as S.B. 8, presents the most serious challenge to Roe v. Wade in decades, the repeal of which is a longtime goal of opponents of abortion.
But the 5-4 ruling was met mostly with silence from elected Republicans, including those who represent the state in Washington.
Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both fierce opponents of abortion, spent much of Thursday opining on Twitter about other issues, including the Afghanistan withdrawal, China, and the influx of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. Cornyn even tweeted in defense of another new Texas law curbing access to voting.
Cornyn’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
A spokesman for Cruz told HuffPost: “Sen. Cruz is proud that Texas is leading the charge to defend life. Every life is a gift from God, and without life, there is no liberty. The question of abortion legislation should be returned to the states.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, didn’t seem concerned about the ruling and its impact on nationwide abortion rights when asked about it at a Thursday event in Kentucky.
“I think it was a highly technical decision, whether it leads to a broader ruling on Roe vs. Wade is unclear at this point,” McConnell told reporters.
Major GOP committees ― including those tasked with advancing party priorities on a national level such as the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee ― similarly refrained from weighing in on the high court decision. They, too, remained focused on critiquing President Joe Biden over his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
The Texas law bans abortion after six weeks when many women don’t yet realize they’re pregnant. It also deputizes private citizens who can receive bounties of up to $10,000 for suing anyone accused of “aiding and abetting” patients who seek an abortion in the state, meaning clinics will either need to stop offering the procedure or risk costly enforcement litigation.
Although the law could still be blocked at some other stage, Wednesday’s emergency ruling could serve as an indication of where the justices stand on protecting abortion rights more broadly. Abortion opponents have teed up other challenges to Roe v. Wade in the next Supreme Court term that stand a greater chance of succeeding under the new 6-3 conservative majority that was cemented by former President Donald Trump. They could win even if Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sides with the liberals on the court, as he did in Wednesday’s ruling.
Democrats were comparatively far more active in responding to the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, with some lawmakers redoubling their calls to eliminate the filibuster rule in the Senate, and for passage of new laws to protect abortion rights.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed to hold a vote on legislation codifying Roe v. Wade nationwide once the House returns from recess later this month. She railed against the Supreme Court decision, saying its “cowardly, dark-of-night” move to let the Texas law take effect “delivers catastrophe to the women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities.”
The bill, titled the Women’s Health Protection Act, would federalize Roe v. Wade and invalidate inconsistent state provisions such as the Texas law. It’s likely to pass in the House, but as of right now, it has only 48 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate, far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) have not signed on to the legislation.
President Joe Biden also blasted the Supreme Court’s refusal to block Texas’ abortion law, warning it will unleash “unconstitutional chaos.”
The president further pledged to “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”
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