The most radical abortion law in the United States has come into force, despite legal efforts to block it.
A near-total abortion ban in Texas allows any private citizen to sue an abortion provider who breaks the law, opening the floodgates to harassing and frivolous lawsuits from anti-abortion vigilantes who could eventually shut down the law. Most clinics in the state.
“Access to abortion will be plunged into absolute chaos,” said Amanda Williams, executive director of the abortion support group Lilith Fund, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who challenged the law. “Sadly, many of the people who need access the most will fall through the cracks, as we have seen over the years with the relentless attacks here in our state.
“It’s amazing that the politicians in Texas got away with this devastating and cruel law that will hurt so many people. “
Senate Bill 8, introduced by the Republican-dominated Texas legislature and promulgated by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, in May, bans abortion once embryonic heart activity is detected, which is d ‘about six weeks, and offers no exceptions for rape or incest. Texas is the first state to ban abortion this early in pregnancy since Roe v Wade, and last-minute efforts to stop him with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by Tuesday were unsuccessful.
While a dozen other states have passed similar so-called “heart rate” bills, they have all been blocked by the courts. The Texan version is new in that it is intentionally designed to protect government officials from law enforcement, and thus make court challenges more difficult to obtain. Instead, it prompts any private citizen in the United States to bring a civil action against an abortion provider or anyone who “aids or encourages” the procedure.
The law “immediately and catastrophically reduces access to abortion in Texas,” state abortion providers say, and will likely force many abortion clinics to close. This will prevent the majority of women in Texas (85%) to access abortion care because most do not know they are pregnant as early as six weeks.
Planned Parenthood, which operates 11 clinics in the state, and Whole Woman’s Health clinics told the Guardian they would comply with the extreme law despite it being against their best medical practices. In the days leading up to the law’s enactment, clinics in Texas said they were forced to turn away patients in need of abortion care by the deadline set by law this week and for the foreseeable future.
Some Texas abortion doctors have chosen to stop offering services, choosing to forgo the potential risk of frivolous and costly lawsuits. For example, most doctors at the four Whole Woman’s Health clinics in Texas will not continue to treat to avoid jeopardizing their livelihoods, clinic founder Amy Hagstrom Miller said.
“We will all comply with the law even if it is unethical, inhumane and unfair,” said Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas abortion provider and OB-GYN. “It threatens my livelihood and I fully expect to be prosecuted. But my greatest fear is to ensure that the most vulnerable in my community, the black and Latin patients that I see, who are already the most exposed to logistical and financial hurdles, receive the care they need. “
Law will force most patients to travel out of state for treatment, increasing driving distance to an abortion clinic by twenty – from an average of 12 miles to 248 miles one way , nearly 500 miles round trip, the Guttmacher Institute find. And that is only if patients have the resources to do so, including time off, the ability to pay for the procedure, and in some cases, child custody.
Abortion fund providers and support groups – which help fund travel, accommodation, and direct services for low-income women through donations – have spent months scrambling to coordinate with out-of-state clinics, including in New Mexico and Colorado, to ensure patients receive timely care when SB8 goes into effect. Last year, the state was offered a glimpse of what would happen if abortion care ceased: when the state banned most abortion procedures amid the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the number of patients who left the state for treatment jumped almost 400%.
Many women wishing to have an abortion are expected to be delayed until later in the pregnancy and others will be forced to carry their pregnancies to term or try to terminate their pregnancies without medical supervision, warns. keeps abortion providers. As with most abortion restrictions, low-income women and women of color will bear the greatest burden under SB8.
Doctors aren’t the only ones who might be targeted under SB8: an incredibly wide range of people and groups, including clinic nurses, abortion fund agents, domestic violence counselors and rape, or even a family member offering a car ride to the clinic. could now face prosecution from aliens. Those who sue can collect a minimum of $ 10,000 if they win, but if the providers are legally successful, they cannot recover any legal payments. The law, providers say, will encourage “bounty hunters” to abort.
The sweeping legal provision of the law is the first of its kind in the country.
The state’s leading anti-abortion lobby group, Texas Right to Life, has previously helped anti-abortion activists uphold the law by creating a website that invites “whistleblowers” to report SB8 violations. (In response, proponents of choice flooded digital entry forms from satirical information.)
Abortion providers, funds and clergy, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit against SB8 in July, writing that the law would “create absolute chaos in Texas and irreparably harm Texans in need of abortion services.”
A preliminary injunction hearing was initially set for Monday, August 30 in federal court. However, the largely conservative Fifth Circuit Appeals Court canceled the Sunday afternoon hearing and rejected the plaintiffs’ request to allow the district court to block the law. The suppliers then appealed to the United States Supreme Court for emergency relief.
But the court did not act until the law came into force on Wednesday, allowing it to proceed. As the country’s High Court, which now holds a strong anti-choice contingent, considers considering a 15-week Mississippi ban that could test Roe v Wade in the next term, his inaction in the Texas case signals the possible early outcome of Chevreuil.
Texas is already one of the most difficult states in the United States to access abortion due to a host of state laws pushed by the Republican-dominated legislature over the past decade, including a 24-hour waiting period, a 20-week abortion ban. , restrictions on telemedicine and a ban on private and public insurance. It is home to the largest number of abortion deserts – cities in which a patient wishing to have an abortion must travel at least 100 miles to seek treatment – in the country.
Following the passage of a 2013 multi-part law known as House Bill 2, about half of the state’s abortion clinics have closed, from 40 to less than 20. While the law was ultimately overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2016, many clinics were unable to reopen. Large swathes of the state – including the Panhandle and West Texas – lack an abortion clinic, forcing women to travel long distances for treatment.