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Governor Greg Abbott signed a law Wednesday that bans abortions in Texas before many women even know they are pregnant — but will leave enforcement up to private citizens, who’ll be able to bring civil lawsuits against anyone who violates the legislation.
The new law forbids abortions — even in cases involving rape and incest — as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks with advanced technology. But it also specifically prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban.
Instead, private citizens, including people outside of Texas, will be allowed to sue an abortion provider or anyone else who may have helped someone terminate a pregnancy after the limit for up to $10,000 each.
“The life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Abbott said during a bill signing at his office.
Critics of the bill said the provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the court system with lawsuits against doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors and anyone else who may have helped, such as a friend who drove a woman to an appointment.
“The goal is clear: to relentlessly attack our reproductive rights until abortion is a right in name only. Passing these bills is not leadership, it is cruelty and extremism,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
Using advanced technology, an electric signal flutter can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, even before an embryo is a fetus and when it doesn’t yet have a developed heart. Medical experts say an embryo is termed a fetus starting in the 11th week of pregnancy.
Currently, Texas bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for those with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality.
The overwhelming majority of abortions in the US, more than 90 percent, take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The law will take effect in September.
With Post Wires
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