Just a day after claiming "Texans, not gov't, should decide their best health care practices," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law what critics are calling "one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country."
The "heartbeat" bill "would amount to an outright ban on abortions," writes The Texas Tribune, prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — typically around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. The law makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for instances of rape or incest.
Abortion rights advocates say the law will likely force women to seek alternative methods, legal or not. State Rep. Donna Howard (D), for instance, said "there will always be women who will pursue having abortions despite what you do here today and what you've been doing for a decade to create all these obstructions." No law, said Progress Texas advocacy manager Diana Gómez, "will stop abortions from happening."
The bill's most notable provision, however, puts the onus of enforcement on private citizens, allowing anyone other than a government official to sue both abortion providers and anyone who "aids or abets" another person in obtaining an illegal abortion, "including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise." Nancy Northrup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, argues that "this bill essentially opens the floodgates to allow anyone who is hostile to abortion to sue doctors and clinics, consuming their resources and forcing them to shut down."
The law is slated to take effect on Sept. 1, writes Mother Jones, though advocacy groups plan to challenge it. Texas is the latest of several states to introduce restrictive abortion legislation in 2021. So far, "none of the bills have gone into effect," CNN reports.