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Gov. Greg Abbott signs law banning abortions as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy

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A protester carries a sign defending women's reproductive rights. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • A protester carries a sign defending women's reproductive rights.
As expected, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law controversial legislation that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks, a time before many women are even aware they're pregnant.

Abortion-rights groups have pledged a court battle to overturn the law, which they call one  of the most extreme in the country.

The measure, which goes into effect September 1, prohibits abortions after doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat — something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It offers no exceptions for rape or incest.

No other state that's enacted a so-called "heartbeat" bill has successfully defended the legislation in court.

“Let me be clear: Abortion is health care and it is still legal in Texas. This six-week abortion ban is unconstitutional and others like it have been struck down by federal courts across the nation," said Diana Gómez, advocacy manager at Progress Texas, in an emailed statement. 

"Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land and regardless of whatever bill Gov. Abbott signs, no law will stop abortions from happening. It’s unfortunate that anti-abortion politicians were more focused on restricting access to essential medical care this session than providing COVID relief and tackling our failed power grid."

Critics have also warned that the Republican-backed bill would create chaos in the courts because it includes a provision allowing virtually anyone to sue abortion providers or anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion.

More than 300 Texas attorneys signed a letter raising concerns that the proposal would subject doctors and others to harassment in the state's legal system. 

Abortion-rights advocates have also warned that Texas' fight to defend its "heartbeat" bill will likely leave taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in legal expenses since the state would be responsible for paying back attorney fees if the proposal is rejected by the courts.

Even so, Texas is the latest red state to push forward a strict anti-abortion law in hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court's expanded conservative majority will overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that nearly 50 years ago established women's right to access abortions. 

On Monday, the high court announced that it will review Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a case directly challenging Roe v. Wade.

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