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Opponents of Texas abortion law ask Supreme Court to expedite their challenge

Abortion providers argue that Texas officials and a federal appeals court are stalling.

WASHINGTON — Opponents of the Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get the case back in the hands of a federal judge so they can resume their legal fight.

The Supreme Court last month rejected a claim by Texas that the law known as S.B. 8 was immune to challenges in federal court, but the ruling limited opponents of the law to suing state medical licensing officials. That meant abortion providers in Texas could only seek to block those officials from taking away their medical licenses.

The ruling also meant opponents were unable to block the most novel feature of the Texas law, which allows anyone to sue an abortion provider and seek a minimum of $10,000.

The Supreme Court last month sent the case back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, abortion providers say the case is stuck there and should be returned to a federal trial judge in Texas so they can proceed with their legal challenge.

Texas has asked the appeals court to consider what it says are lingering legal questions about the ability of the abortion providers to sue licensing officials. Lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a petition filed Monday that the Supreme Court has already decided the issue and that Texas and the appeals court are stalling.

"The Fifth Circuit has no issues left to resolve in the appeal before it and no authority to retain jurisdiction," lawyers for the center told the Supreme Court, adding that Texas is "not entitled to a second bite at the apple."

In the meantime, thousands of Texans have "been unable to exercise their federal constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy," the attorneys said.

The Supreme Court is likely to seek a response from Texas before it takes any action on the request.