Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law on Wednesday, May 19, prohibiting abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, making Texas one the most extreme states nationwide to ban abortion so early in a pregnancy.
The bill prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which is equal to six weeks of pregnancy. It covers situations in which a woman is pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Health emergencies are the only exception.
Other states have passed similar “heartbeat” legislation, but in Texas, there’s a twist.
Instead of relying on the government to enforce the legislation, the bill empowers private citizens to prosecute abortion providers or someone who assists anyone in getting an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
An individual can sue any one who had an abortion or a provider without being connected to them.
The law will go into effect in September.
According to the Texas Tribune, more than 56,000 abortions were performed on Texas residents in 2019, the majority of them in the first trimester.
Texas Right to Life called the new legislation a “landmark achievement” and a “vital step toward ending all abortions in Texas.”
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in the bill signing ceremony.
The Legislature “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” he added.
The heartbeat bill is now LAW in the Lone Star State.
This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 19, 2021
Josh Blackman is a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.
He praised the law as “a very unique law and it’s a very clever law.”
“Planned Parenthood can’t go to court and sue Attorney General [Ken] Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute. They have to basically sit and wait to be sued,” he continued.
Pro-choice activists have stated that they will fight regardless.
Abortion advocates are urging supporters to donate to Texas abortion funds like Buckle Bunnies Fund to directly fight the discriminatory legislation.
The Texas bill was dubbed “draconian” by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which said it was “currently considering all legal options” to keep it from taking effect, NPR reported.
“Texas is inviting anti-abortion protestors to police abortion clinics and harass providers, even though the state knows that these kind of bans are unconstitutional,” said Elisabeth Smith, the center’s chief counsel of state policy and advocacy.
“The goal of this law is to saddle doctors and clinics with so many lawsuits that they have no resources left to stay open,” she said.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Texas Votes issued a statement criticizing the legislation as “dangerous” and one of the “harshest abortion bans in the country.”