Restrictive abortion law goes into effect in Texas

Pro-choice demonstrators in Texas
(Image credit: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

A Texas law banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy went into effect at midnight Wednesday.

Abortion providers in the state filed emergency requests to block the measure, one of the strictest in the United States, but the Supreme Court did not take action before the law took effect. Under the law, known as SB 8, abortions cannot be done if an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers say is a "fetal heartbeat," The Texas Tribune reports.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says this isn't medically accurate terminology, because at this point in development, "what is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops."

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It's common for people to not know they are pregnant until after six weeks, and abortion providers and advocates in Texas say the bill will affect at least 85 percent of patients. Whole Women's Health clinics in Texas remained open until midnight, and saw an influx of patients who came in for services before the law took effect, the organization tweeted. In filing its appeal, Whole Women's Health said under SB 8, "through no fault of their own, thousands of pregnant Texans will lose constitutionally protected access to abortion in mere hours unless this court acts. Applicants and their patients urgently need relief."

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