The local Tim Hortons is a convenient place to grade papers. But it runs FoxNews continuously, and sometimes I can’t help but overhear the inanities of its talking heads. This morning some vaguely pretty blonde told me that the Supreme Court had “upheld” Texas’ abortion law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Surprised that such a momentous decision would have come down so quickly, I immediately took to the innertoobz for more information. And of course the Supremes did no such thing.
The law was blocked by a Federal District Court judge, whose decision was then overturned by a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, who allowed the law to remain in effect until they can have a full hearing on the case in January. Opponents of the law then asked the Supreme Court to intervene to block the law before the 5th Circuit’s January hearing. The Supreme Court declined to do so, and that is all they did. They made no substantive ruling on the law itself.
Scalia, writing for the majority, argued that opponents of the law had failed to demonstrate that the 5th Circuit acted improperly. Justice Breyer, writing for the minority, argued that a better course of action would have been to block the law from coming into effect until the 5th Circuit could rule. This is a case where both are plausibly correct. It often is a better course of action to block a new law’s effect until the Courts can thoroughly thresh it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s legally or procedurally improper to not do so.
It is, however, improper for the media to misrepresent what happened. Not unusual, of course, just improper.