A Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks of gestation went into effect Wednesday, despite the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling establishing a constitutional right to the procedure governing the state’s access to abortion services most restrictive in the country.
Other states have passed similar laws, but these measures face legal challenges. Texas law is the first to be implemented after the Supreme Court fails to comply with a request for a lockdown. (The judges can still do this.)
However, because of the way the law was drafted, it can be difficult to challenge in court, which is a fundamental shift in the fight for the right to abortion and is open to emulation by other jurisdictions seeking to restrict access to abortion .
“These laws are unconstitutional as we understand the Supreme Court rulings so far, and courts have been quick to issue injunctions blocking enforcement,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization promoting the right to abortion supports.
“This is the first to go into effect,” she added. “That’s huge in that regard.”
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the new law.
Is the law a total ban on abortion?
The law prohibits abortions as soon as cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo. This typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy.
This is very early in a pregnancy and many women do not yet know that they are pregnant at this point. When a pregnant woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant as doctors usually define it.
According to Texas law, a woman would have about two weeks to diagnose her condition, confirm the pregnancy with a test, make a decision about how to deal with the pregnancy, and arrange for an abortion.
Many women may not track their periods carefully, have irregular cycles, or know the exact date when their last period started, experts noted.
“It is extremely possible, and very common, for people to hit the six week mark and not know they are pregnant,” said Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, Director of Justice Transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The heart activity detected on the ultrasound is not a real heartbeat, added Dr. Villavicencio added. It results from electrical activity, but the heart valves have not yet formed. And the sound doesn’t indicate the pregnancy is viable, she said.
“Forcing her to find out about pregnancy and quickly make a decision about how to deal with it is contrary to ethical care,” said Dr. Villavicencio.
Does the law make exceptions for pregnancies due to rape or incest, or to protect the mother’s life?
The law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It allows abortions for health reasons, but the exceptions are narrowly defined and allow an abortion only if the pregnancy could endanger the mother’s life or lead to “significant and irreversible impairment of an essential body function”.
“These are very narrow exceptions,” she said, and the language doesn’t cover all cases where a woman’s health could be at risk. Still, she added, “Healthcare providers will interpret the law very conservatively because they don’t want to cross borders.”
Guaranteed Roe v. Wade not a woman’s right to have an abortion? Can Texas Law be challenged on constitutional grounds?
Texas law prevents state officials from actually enforcing it, a design designed to make it difficult to challenge in court.
Ordinarily, state officials are identified as defendants in a lawsuit aimed at blocking such a law as unconstitutional. Instead, Texas law empowers individuals to sue anyone who performs an abortion or “aids” a process. Plaintiffs unrelated to the patient or the clinic can file a lawsuit and reclaim legal fees and US $ 10,000 if they win.
Understand the Texas Abortion Act
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The citizens, not the state, will enforce the law. The law represents ordinary citizens – including those outside of Texas – and allows them to sue clinics and others who violate the law. It will pay them at least $ 10,000 per illegal abortion if they are successful.
Silence from the Supreme Court. The Texas Abortion Restriction Act went into effect Wednesday after the Supreme Court failed to honor a motion to block it, causing clinics in the state to refuse women who applied for the procedure.
Therefore, the question for the Supreme Court is not whether the law is constitutional, but whether it can be challenged in court.
Does Texas Now Have the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Law?
Other states – including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio – have also passed “heartbeat” laws that prohibit abortions once heart activity can be detected on an ultrasound scan.
These laws would also prohibit abortions after about six weeks of gestation, 18 weeks earlier than Roe v’s legal standard. Wade, who allows abortions for up to about 24 weeks, roughly the point at which a fetus can survive outside the uterus. But these state laws have been held up by legal challenges and not implemented.
Abortion providers in Texas estimate that 85 percent of patients who want an abortion are at least six weeks pregnant and would be denied care under new state law.
Who will be most affected by Texas law?
There are seven million women of childbearing age in Texas, and the law will make it harder for anyone to perform abortions in the state as lawmakers intended.
But the measure will create almost insurmountable barriers for certain vulnerable populations, abortion providers said. Including: teenagers who often don’t realize they are pregnant until later in pregnancy; Low-income people, who must raise approximately $ 550 to cover the cost of the procedure; and colored people, including undocumented immigrants.
About 70 percent of abortions in Texas in 2019 were performed on women of color, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Texas requires minors to obtain parental or guardian permission to access abortion care. Some minors have to go to court for this, which adds to the delays, said Rosann Mariappuram, executive director of Jane’s Due Process in Austin, Texas, which helps teenagers with abortions.
Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, which helps low-income women pay for abortions, said she was particularly concerned about the potential impact of the new law on black women in Texas, who are already facing high maternal mortality rates.
Undocumented women cannot simply travel across the state for access to medical care, she added, and women with chronic illnesses may find pregnancy life-threatening.