Texas six-week abortion ban takes effect after US Supreme Court fails to act, allows citizens to sue people aiding terminations

A ban on abortions past six weeks has come into force in Texas after the US Supreme Court did not respond to an urgent petition from clinics. Citizens will be able to sue providers for facilitating terminations past this stage.

The new law, which prohibits women from terminating a pregnancy past six weeks once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, took effect early on Wednesday. Medical and legal experts, however, have argued that the term “heartbeat” is not accurate, as an embryo’s heart is not fully formed until much later.

According to pro-choice groups and abortion clinics, Texas’ new abortion bill will affect at least 85% of terminations occurring state-wide, as many women are unaware that they are pregnant at such an early stage.

The decree was passed after the US Supreme Court failed to respond to an emergency appeal by abortion clinics in the Republican state on Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) slammed the move in a Twitter thread as being “a full-scale assault on patients, our healthcare providers, and our support systems,” and vowed to keep fighting until it is overturned.

In an unprecedented move, citizens will be able to sue a provider or person who has facilitated a termination after the month-and-a-half cutoff. If found to have aided the process, the individual will be forced to pay $10,000 (€8,470) to the person who filed the suit.

The ACLU further added that the lawsuit “actively encourages private individuals to act as bounty hunters” against millions of women in the state seeking safe access to abortion, as well as healthcare workers or drivers escorting females to a clinic. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the “Heartbeat Act” into law in May. It makes no exception for incidences of rape or incest – only medical emergencies.

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