- Twiter / Alexa Garcia-Ditta
- Women dressed like characters from The Handmaid's Tale protesting anti-abortion bills at the Texas state capitol during the 2019 legislative session.
The so-called "heartbeat law" championed by Republican lawmakers would ban the medical procedure as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable — early as six weeks of pregnancy, or before many women are even aware they're pregnant.
Opponents of the law argue it would close down clinics since it bans some 85% of abortions that currently take place in Texas. Reproductive-rights advocates also say a provision in the law that lets private citizens sue anyone they believe has violated the ban would create a "bounty hunting scheme."
"In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade," Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup said in an emailed statement. "We have filed an emergency motion in the Supreme Court to block this law before clinics are forced to turn patients away. Patients will have to travel out of state — in the middle of a pandemic — to receive constitutionally guaranteed healthcare. And many will not have the means to do so. It’s cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful.”
On Sunday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by women's health providers to block the bill, effectively forcing them to ask the high court to intervene.
Twelve other states have passed heartbeat bills, but none have been allowed to take effect. The authors of Texas' bill included the provision allowing private citizens to sue for enforcement to insulate it from review by federal courts.
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