A Texas law banning most abortions in the state took effect at midnight, but the Supreme Court has yet to act on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.
If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.
The fact that the Supreme Court did not act on an emergency request to halt the law from taking effect came as a surprise to some legal analysts, given that the law is facing court challenges by political opponents.
The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks and before most women even know they’re pregnant.
According to NPR, the bill does not make exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. The law also allows individuals to sue those suspected of helping a woman obtain an abortion, with an award of up to $10,000. The Texas Tribune reports that those who file such lawsuits do not need to provide a personal connection to whomever they sue.
Abortion doctors and advocates in Texas fear that women will lose their right to an abortion provided to them under Roe v. Wade before they even know they are pregnant. But beyond that, they worry that lawsuits against medical professionals could financially ruin them or force abortion providers out of the state.
"This is a full-scale assault on patients, our health care providers, and our support systems," the American Civil Liberties Union, who has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the law, tweeted early Wednesday. "This abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional. We won’t stop fighting until it’s blocked."
This is a full-scale assault on patients, our health care providers, and our support systems.
This abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional. We won’t stop fighting until it’s blocked.
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 1, 2021
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group in the state, celebrated the law taking effect by tweeting "God bless Texas."
In a statement released late Wednesday morning, President Joe Biden slammed the law as "blatantly" violating the constitutional precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
"The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes. And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual," the statement read. "My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right."