The Supreme Court let stand a court ruling striking down an Alabama ban on the most common form of second-trimester abortion on Friday.
It’s a signal that the justices won’t leap at just any chance to carve away at Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Alabama’s 2016 ban on dilation and evacuation abortions, commonly referred to as D&Es, after its judge found that it placed an unconstitutionally heavy burden on women. D&Es are the only form of the procedure available in Alabama after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“While we are pleased to see the end of this particular case, we know that it is nowhere near the end of efforts to undermine access to abortion,” Andrew Beck, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “Politicians are lining up to do just what Alabama did — ask the courts to review laws that push abortion out of reach and harm women’s health, with the hope of the getting the Supreme Court to undermine, or even overturn, a woman’s right to abortion.”
Alabama is far from the only state to attempt to ban D&Es, which anti-abortion activists call “dismemberment abortions.” Nine other states have passed similar measures, though only they are only in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Supreme Court’s decision isn’t a good sign for the future of Alabama’s most infamous abortion restriction: a law passed in May that would ban almost all abortions in the state, without exceptions for rape or incest. That law is not yet in effect, and abortion rights groups have vowed to sue and keep it that way.
While Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the other justices’ decision to decline to review the case, he also wrote an opinion hinting at his interest in taking on an abortion rights case — if it were the right case.
“This case serves as a stark reminder that our abortion jurisprudence has spiraled out of control,” Thomas wrote. “Although this case does not present the opportunity to address our demonstrably erroneous ‘undue burden” standard, we cannot continue blinking the reality of what this Court has wrought.”