The Texas high court effectively ended Friday's challenge by clinics against a state law that prohibited most abortions . It ruled that state officials, which include those charged with licensing doctors, are not responsible for enforcing this law.
Texas Supreme Court ruled that only private citizens can enforce law, and not state officials. This means that anyone who assists or performs an abortion on a woman after six weeks of gestation is barred from being sued.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the case against these same licensing officials to partially move forward. Clinics in the suit sought an injunction to stop them from enforcing law that took effect September 1.
The clinics would have been able to sue the officials to get rid of a unique feature that had made it impossible for them to challenge it before the federal court. This feature was to allow the private citizens to enforce the law, not the state officials.
Clinics claim the law is not constitutional under Roe v. Wade. This 1973 decision made abortion legal across the country. The conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering rolling back or overturning a Mississippi case.
There are also other cases that challenge the Texas law.
A federal appeals court asked Texas' Republican-dominated Supreme Court in January to examine whether licensing officials could use indirect enforcement of the law to take disciplinary action against violators.
Justice Jeffrey Boyd wrote Friday for the unanimous court of nine members and said that the answer was "no". "Texas law doesn't grant the state-agency executives named in this case any authority over the Act's requirements."
The case will now be referred to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. During arguments last month Marc Hearron (a lawyer for clinics) stated that a Texas court ruling against them would "essentially put an end to our challenge."
Lawyers for the clinics did not immediately respond to our request.