'Heartbeat bill': Restrictive Texas abortion law poised to take effect

WION Web Team
Texas, United StatesUpdated: Aug 31, 2021, 11:25 PM IST

(Representative Image) Photograph:(Twitter)

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If the so-called "Heartbeat bill," is implemented, there would be no exceptions for incest or rape, and Texas would become one of the more difficult states to obtain an abortion in

Texas is set to take effect a new law forbidding abortion after six weeks. Unless a court steps in, this legislation will come into effect on Wednesday.

In May, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill that would make Texas became one of a dozen states to ban abortion upon detection of the fetal heartbeat, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy. 

The so-called "Heartbeat bill" does not leave any exceptions for rape or incest and would make Texas one of the most difficult states to get an abortion in.

"Approximately 85 to 90 per cent of people who obtain abortion in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, meaning this law would prohibit nearly all abortions in the state," the American Civil Liberties Union said.

A coalition of organisations including Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and others have petitioned the Supreme Court asking it to intervene and block the law's implementation.

Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, has prevented other states from enacting regulations on abortion in the early stages of pregnancy. According to it, abortion can be performed as long as the fetus is not viable, typically until the 22nd and 24th week of pregnancy.

However, Texas's law is distinctive in that it allows the public to enforce the ban instead of just state officials, such as prosecutors and health departments.

The Texas law "creates a bounty hunting scheme that encourages the general public to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against anyone who they believe has violated the ban," the ACLU said.

"Anyone who successfully sues a health center worker, an abortion provider, or any person who helps someone access an abortion after six weeks will be rewarded with at least $10,000, to be paid by the person sued," it said.

"Anti-abortion groups in Texas have already set up online forms enlisting people to sue anyone they believe is violating the law and encouraging people to submit 'anonymous tips' on doctors, clinics, and others who violate the law," it said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup says that the law forces women to leave the state during times of pandemics in order to receive constitutionally guaranteed healthcare.

"Many will not be able to afford to," Northup said. "It's cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful."

Plans Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson says the Supreme Court is being called upon to uphold 50 years of precedent and ensure Texans don't lose their constitutional right to abortion.

A case involving a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, subject to medical necessity or severe fetal anomalies, will also be heard by the Supreme Court this fall.

It will be the first abortion case considered by the nation's high court since former president Donald Trump cemented a conservative majority on the nine-member panel.

(With inputs from agencies)