September 22, 2021
A new Texas law went into effect in the early weeks of the month that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, or around the time that cardiac activity is detectable.
Six weeks is well before most women even know they’re pregnant.
This new law, entitled the “Texas Heartbeat Act”, formally went into effect on Wednesday, Sep. 1. It allows private citizens to sue abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood locations. It also allows for private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, like giving them a ride to the location or provide any financial assistance.
“These lawsuits are not against the women,” said John Seago, a representative of Texas Right to Life, in an interview with NPR. “The lawsuits would be against the individuals making money off of the abortion, the abortion industry itself.”
The law makes no exceptions for victims of rape or cases of incest.
This new law is one of the strictest abortion bans in the whole country. Several other states have tried to pass a law like this, but they haven’t been able to make it past the protests of abortion-rights groups, as well as federal courts.
Employees of abortion providers have expressed concern for their patients, saying that some women don’t have any way to get outside the state if they want to get an abortion. Despite their apprehension, these employees have said that they are still complying with the law as long as it is still in effect.
“This law threatens my livelihood,” said Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, an OB/GYN, in an interview with Michel Martin. “It threatens my ability to care for my family. It threatens my career simply for doing what I was trained to do right here in Texas. You know, I went to medical school here. I went to college here. And I went to residency here. This is my state, too.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act has been met with public outcry. Eight days after the law went into effect, it was challenged by the United States Justice Department, claiming it to be unconstitutional. Many more court challenges are underway, including several lawsuits in the Texas state court targeting anti-abortion-rights groups like Texas Right to Life. Abortion rights groups are also organizing protests.
In one specific lawsuit, a group of abortion providers and reproductive rights groups said the law “places a bounty on people who provide or aid abortions, inviting random strangers to sue them.”
If the federal courts allow the law to stand, more conservative states will likely push for laws like this one to be passed. Spokesmen for Texas Right for Life have stated that they are “eager” to replicate the model this law has presented in other states if it proves successful.
“I’m appalled,” said Gwen Magiera (‘25). “This is destructive and completely dangerous. People are going to find ways to have abortions no matter if it’s legal or not. It happened in the 1920s in Australia. History always repeats itself, but this is part of history that shouldn’t.”
Just before midnight on the same day the law was officially put into effect, the Supreme Court refused to block it by a vote of 5-4.
“The court’s order is stunning,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
“Banning abortions will only cause more damage,” said Magiera. “You should have a choice in what happens to your body. That choice had been taken away, and I hope that the choice won’t be taken away in Michigan.”