A restrictive abortion law was enacted in the state of Texas on Sept. 1.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
The Supreme Court denied an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Texas to block the law from going into effect by a vote of 5-4 on Sept. 2.
SB 8 prohibits abortions in the state after about six weeks. Many women will not know that they are pregnant by the time this deadline occurs. This timeframe coincides with the amount of time that it typically takes to detect a fetal heartbeat.
The law is unique in that it is not enforced by the government of Texas. The law is enforced by citizens of the state who are able to sue abortion providers.
According to https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/10/texas-abortion-law-ban-enforcement/, “While abortion patients themselves can’t be sued under the new law, anyone who performs or aids with the abortion can be sued — and by almost anyone.”
In fact, the state of Texas is prohibited from enforcing this law.
The law is designed this way to withstand inevitable legal challenges from abortion rights groups in court. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 1973 Roe v. Wade granted the right to an abortion for women in the United States.
As such, the state of Texas is not able to enforce the law on its own through the legal system, so it is calling on its citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits and legal action in civil court.
The law offers a $10,000 reward to any citizen of the state who is able to win a lawsuit against an abortion provider.
“Our Creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said to the media during the bill signing ceremony.
Pro-life activists across the country viewed the Texas law as an important steppingstone in their mission to secure the right to life for all unborn children.
“Texas is the first state to successfully protect the most vulnerable among us, preborn children, by outlawing abortion once their heartbeats are detected. A fetal heartbeat is a clear and scientifically acknowledged sign of human life,” Chelsey Youman, the legislative director for Human Coalition Action Texas, said. “Human beings are worthy of protection at all phases of development, and the importance of a growing human in the womb cannot be undermined in good conscience.
“We are confident in SB 8’s constitutionality. Legal challenges to SB 8 are groundless and will ultimately fail.”
“Hopefully, this law will begin saving the lives of tens of thousands of Texas babies,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said.
The reaction of pro-choice advocates and many Democrats was very different.
The law “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century,” President Joe Biden (D-Del) said.
“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.”
“When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment, and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright,” Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said.
The Biden administration has already challenged the law in court, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued an injunction that briefly suspended the law on Wednesday, citing the constitutional right to an abortion that is guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.
The injunction was short lived as, on Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay which allowed the law to temporarily go back into effect.
The law will now most likely be brought to the Supreme Court for consideration.
SB 8 has had an immediate effect as women have fled the state to receive legal abortions since the law was enacted.
Several other Republican states such as Oklahoma and Mississippi are considering enacting similar laws of their own.
The law is seen by some as the single biggest challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.