The Supreme Court early Wednesday let a Texas state law take effect that allows private citizens to sue to uphold a ban on the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, potentially creating a new template for states to impose strict restrictions on the procedure.
Beyond outlawing abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, the Texas law, signed in May, would deputize citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers or anyone who helps facilitate the procedure after six weeks, such as a person who drives a pregnant person to the clinic. Individuals found to have violated the law would have to pay $10,000 to the person who successfully brings such a suit — a bounty abortion rights advocates warn will encourage harassment, intimidation and vigilantism.
Abortion rights groups plan to keep challenging the law on the merits, though they warn that millions of Texas women will lose access to the procedure as the case proceeds.
“Patients will have to travel out of state — in the middle of a pandemic — to receive constitutionally guaranteed health care,” Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “And many will not have the means to do so. It’s cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful.”
A fetal heartbeat usually can be detected around six weeks of pregnancy, when many women still don’t even know they are pregnant.
And while abortion rights advocates have touted the recent ability to dispense abortion pills via telemedicine and by mail as a way for people in conservative states to evade mounting restrictions on the procedure, the state on Tuesday also sent a ban on mail delivery of the pills to the governor's desk.
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