The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday left Texas' controversial ban on most abortions in effect but ruled that abortion providers could sue officials over the prohibition in the lower courts.
The split decision by the court came more than a month after justices heard arguments over the law, one of the most restrictive in the United States. The Texas law bans abortions after cardiac activity is noticed in embryos, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, when some women are unaware of their condition.
The Republican-backed law, enacted on September 1, does not allow exceptions for incest or rape.
Friday's ruling allows abortion providers to sue over the law, but it limits who can be sued. The high court allowed Texas licensing officials to be sued but not state court judges, court clerks or the Texas state attorney general.
The ruling likely paves the way for a federal judge who has previously blocked the law to do so again. However, his decision will likely be overturned by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously voted twice to allow the abortion ban to be enforced.
The Supreme Court had declined to block the law the day it took effect.
The case could be heard again in the nation's highest court, but so far there have not been five votes on the nine-member bench to suspend the law while legal disputes are settled.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Joe Biden was "very concerned" that the Supreme Court left the law in effect.
Texas judge's ruling
The Supreme Court's ruling came one day after a Texas state judge ruled the law's enforcement was unconstitutional, while leaving the law in place. The law awards up to $10,000 to citizens who file successful lawsuits against those in violation, including providers and anyone who helps another get an abortion. The Biden administration has called the law a "bounty."
Biden's Justice Department said in a statement shortly after the ruling that it brought the suit "because the law was specifically designed to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights while evading judicial review. The department will continue our efforts in the lower courts to protect the rights of women and uphold the Constitution."
"A dark cloud hangs over the U.S. Constitution and the state of Texas today as the Supreme Court once again allowed extremist lawmakers to continue imposing their ideologies onto Texans' private health care decisions," Adriana Piñon, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said in a statement.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who defended the law, welcomed the justices' ruling. He wrote on Twitter that he would defend the law and "FIGHT FOR LIFE!!!"
The court voted 8-1 in favor of allowing the lawsuit to proceed, with only conservative Justice Clarence Thomas voting the other way, saying he would have dismissed the lawsuit altogether.
The Supreme Court is also considering a separate abortion rights case from Mississippi that could result in overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortions nationwide in the U.S.
The high court became more conservative under President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices to the nine-seat bench. Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.