By Jack Fink

DALLAS (CBDFW.COM) – After initially deciding against intervening last month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that justices will hold oral arguments on the Texas Heartbeat Act November 1.

But for the second time, the nation’s highest court didn’t block the state’s law, which attracted sharp criticism from abortion care providers.

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“It’s devastating and outrageous what the Supreme Court did today,” said Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU.  “Today’s order is an alarming move by the Supreme Court which has thus far rejected every opportunity to protect Texans Constitutional rights.”

Ann Hagstrom Miller, President & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health in Fort Worth said, “52 days. That’s how long we have been forced to act as agents of the state and deny hundreds of our patients the abortion care they need and deserve.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed, and in an opinion accompanying the court’s order said, “Women seeking abortion care in Texas are entitled to relief from this court now. Because of the court’s failure to act today, that relief, if it comes, will be too late for many.”

Abortion opponents, including Jonathan Covey of Texas Values, felt differently about the court’s decision.

“It’s not a surprise, but we’re excited that the court is leaving this law in place to continue saving lives,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what the Supreme Court says about this, but we are confident that they will uphold life and uphold saving the lives of unborn babies.”

Under the state’s law, doctors can’t perform abortions after they detect cardiac activity.

That can happen as early as six weeks, when many women don’t know they’re pregnant.

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The law doesn’t allow the state or local governments to enforce it.

Instead, only private citizens can do so by filing civil lawsuits leaving abortion providers with potentially costly fines.

In its order, the court said it will determine whether the U.S. Justice Department, which filed suit against Texas, can challenge the state law and keep state judges, clerks, and private parties from enforcing it.

SMU Constitutional Law Professor Dale Carpenter said Friday, “The court takes this issue very seriously.”

He said it’s very unusual for the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments and get full briefing on a matter like this so quickly.

“In fact, I think the last time that I can remember a briefing and oral argument scheduled this quickly was probably more than 20 years ago in the Bush versus Gore 2000 election controversy,”he said.

Carpenter said because the court decided to hold the hearing on November 1, the justices could issue a ruling on this case within weeks and before they consider Mississippi’s abortion case on December 1.

Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack

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