The Supreme Court late on Tuesday, Aug. 31 handed down their decision to have Texas adopt its abortion ban as soon as September 1 despite calls from some abortion providers to block it.
The law, Senate Bill 8, targets abortions when the embryo has shown a heartbeat, or typically six weeks into the pregnancy, with medical emergency being the only exception, according to ABC News.
The legislation, signed into law in May by Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott, allows private individuals to legally challenge anyone who assists a woman in getting an abortion and it will earn them at least $10,000 in damages per case.
This means citizens are granted the power to enforce the ban instead of having the local government do it.
A group of abortion providers had filed a lawsuit against the ban in July, the outlet noted, leading to its emergency request to the Supreme Court for it to be blocked before its effective date.
They argued that the Texas regulations will “immediately and catastrophically” restrict abortion access for 85 percent of patients and cause numerous clinics across the state to close.
SB8 is said to be among the most restrictive pro-life law to be taking effect in the U.S. Before Texas, 12 other states had passed legislation prohibiting abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, but none of them has taken effect due to judicial challenges.
Some critics said despite Texas’ will to protect innocent lives, the restrictive law may only stop safe abortions as people would still try to find a way around it.
“Patients will have to travel out of state—in the middle of a pandemic— to receive constitutionally guaranteed healthcare. And many will not have the means to do so,” said Nancy Northup, president, and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
When Abbott signed the bill into law, he said, “our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” noting that it “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
According to the Texas Tribune, before SB8, most abortions after 20 weeks are outlawed, and bill-abortion at 10-weeks into the pregnancy is also banned.
Ultrasound must be performed on the patient 24 hours before the abortion, and she must be informed about medical risks, abortion alternatives, and help accessible to individuals who want to keep their pregnancy.
According to state records, more than 56,600 abortions were performed on Texas residents in 2019, the majority of them in the first trimester.
In May when the bill successfully reached Abbott’s desk, proponents of SB8 were in high hope more baby lives could be saved.
“The Legislature and Governor prioritized this historic legislation, and with his signature, approximately 50,000 precious human lives will be saved in Texas next year alone!” said Chelsey Youman, with Human Coalition Action, an anti-abortion organization.