A strict new measure that essentially bans abortions in Texas went into effect at midnight, despite protests and lawsuits against the harsh mandate.
The law prohibits women from getting an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and gives citizens the right to take legal action against doctors or anyone else who helps a woman terminate a pregnancy.
Most women who get an abortion in The Lone Star State are at least six weeks pregnant – the earliest a heartbeat can be detected – and will now be unable to receive the procedure, according to Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health.
The Texas bill differs from other similar “heartbeat laws” nationwide because it bars authorities from enforcing the ban, and allows anyone else – including people who live outside the state – to take legal action.
Under the measure, anyone who successfully sues a doctor or accomplice would be entitled to at least $10,000, which critics claim will flood the courts with opportunistic legal cases.
The wide-ranging provision allows suits against patients, nurses, counselors, or even someone who drove a patient to an appointment.
“The life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said while signing the bill in May.
More than a dozen other states, largely in or near the Bible Belt, have passed similar laws, but most of them have been blocked by federal courts.
On Monday, Planned Parenthood filed an emergency request with the US Supreme Court asking them to block the law. The court had not weighed in ahead of the law’s implementation.
No one should be forced to travel hundreds of miles to another state to access basic health care. We will do everything we can to support the patients we serve in Texas,” Ken Lambrecht, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said in a July statement.
“This law is a full-scale assault on patients, their health care providers, and their support systems.”
Planned Parenthood announced a nationwide in-person and virtual protest Tuesday, encouraging supporters to wear orange and assemble in public at noon Wednesday across the country to chant “Bans Off Our Bodies” in solidarity with Texas women.
Under its previous law, Texas banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and granted exceptions for serious medical conditions or abnormal fetuses.