The Texas abortion ban went into effect today after the Supreme Court ignored a request by abortion rights groups to act on blocking new law. The action prohibits the majority of procedures that occur within the state.
According to the legislation passed in Texas, abortions can no longer take place after six weeks of pregnancy. Called a “near-total” abortion ban, many clinics in Texas are expected to close since 85-90% of abortion procedures performed occur after six weeks, according to Reuters. Six weeks is also way before most women are even aware that they are pregnant.
The Texas ban is the most restrictive law ever passed in the country to be enforced. It greatly reduces a woman’s right to choose. Abortion legislation this impactful has not been passed since Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide.
The new state law, which also doesn’t allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest, enables private citizens to sue abortion clinics if they’re found to be providing abortions past the six-week limit. In order to sue, the person doesn’t even have to be involved or connected to the case in any way, and they can also indict anyone who aided the woman. This means those who drove the woman to the clinic or provided the financial means to afford the procedure.
According to NPR, other states have tried to pass legislation such as this before, but women’s rights groups have previously been able to block it from passing in federal court. The Texas abortion ban is different from the others, however, with the addition that private citizens would be able to enforce the legislation.
As stated in the abortion ban, anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider could be awarded up to $10,000. The anti-abortion rights group Texas Right to Life has even set up a “whistleblower” website where people can submit claims and anonymous tips.
“These lawsuits are not against the women,” Texas Right to Life organizer John Seago told NPR. “The lawsuits would be against the individuals making money off of the abortion, the abortion industry itself. So this is not spy on your neighbor and see if they’re having an abortion.”
Abortion providers in the state have since agreed that they will not break the new ban in order to remain active, but without service, many of them may have to close their doors entirely. In Fort Worth, the Whole Women’s Health clinic worked up until midnight, according to Reuters, seeing 25 patients right before the deadline.
“We are providing all abortion medication and abortion procedures, but as long as the patient has no embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” said Whole Women’s Health spokesperson Jackie Dilworth. The six-week mark is usually when cardiac activity commences, which is why the abortion ban cuts access at that point.
“Our doors are still open,” she said, “and we’re doing everything we can to come within the law but still provide abortion care to those who need us.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked that “this radical law is an all-out effort to erase the rights and protections of Roe v Wade.”
If the law is able to stand in federal court, there’s little stopping the abortion ban from being tried in other conservative states, where abortion-rights groups may not have the numbers to block it. The state of Mississippi had previously asked to overturn Roe v. Wade for a ban on abortions after 18 weeks.
The Supreme Court still has time to rule on the request to block the abortion ban. Hearings will continue into 2022 but as long as they silently side with the legislation, the strict law will remain in effect in Texas.