A new Texas law went into effect, banning abortions after six weeks into pregnancy. Many women don’t even know if they are pregnant at that point. This law defies the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made the procedure a constitutional right for women. As a result, Texas has now become the most restrictive state in the nation in regards to accessible abortion services.
In the past, other states passed similar laws, but faced legal challenges. They were ultimately overturned, but the Supreme Court did not request to block the new Texas abortion law. For the most part, this has to do with the way the law was written. The language makes it difficult to challenge in court, which could give rise to a battle over abortion rights. Unfortunately, it may even give other jurisdictions the opportunity to mimic the law in an effort to decline access to abortion.
What Does the Law Prohibit?
The reason the law bans abortion around the six-week mark is because that is about when doctors can detect cardiac activity. Many women don’t even know that they’re pregnant at this stage, though. By the time a woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant, typically. That means women would have two weeks to recognize pregnancy at that point, and need to confirm the results with a pregnancy test. Then, a woman would have to make a decision about the procedure before the six-week mark. Other states have attempted to enact similar laws, but they were all challenged by abortion-rights activists. As a result, federal courts blocked these laws. This new law is unconstitutional, but it still went into effect.
What Makes The New Texas Law Different?
Some people who oppose abortion rights have pushed for this new law. The hope is that it will make it more difficult for federal courts to abolish it. The law doesn’t require public officials to enforce the law. Individuals can bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers, or anyone else who aids illegal abortions. This means that individuals can ultimately enforce and abortion ban. Anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider may receive $10,000 as a reward. How is this possible? Well, a whistleblower website is in place so people can submit tips about anyone who may be in violation of the law.
The lawsuits are not against the women; rather, the lawsuits are against the people offering the abortion services. In order for people to not get in trouble, women seeking abortions have been traveling out of state. In Oklahoma border towns, for example, there has been an uptick in abortions as a result of the new Texas abortion ban.
What About Abortions That Result From Rape?
The law does not make exceptions for rape or incest. The fine line is that as woman may receive abortions only if the pregnancy could endanger the mother’s life, or impair it significantly. The doctor would have to deem that the mother’s life would be irreversibly impaired as a result of not aborting the pregnancy, though.
What Happens Next?
Should federal courts allow this law to stand, it’s likely that other conservative states will pass similar laws. Texas Right to Life is an organization already working with activists in other states to replicate the law, as long as the Supreme Court doesn’t block it. All of that said, there are currently several court challenges underway, in addition to several lawsuits in Texas’ state court. Abortion rights groups have also been organizing demonstrations and protests in Texas to oppose the law. Abortion clinics remain open out of state and have invited women to come get the procedure, should they decide to do it.