In Texas, on Wednesday, a law prohibiting abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat came into effect around the sixth week of pregnancy. This is the first far-reaching restriction on abortion in the United States. The act may herald a breakthrough in the existing abortion law throughout the country. Women’s rights groups and many medical professionals harshly criticize the Texas regulations.
The so-called “Heartbeat Act” was signed in May by Texas Governor Greg Abbot and entered into force in early September.
It is one of several similar government-enacted, but all others have been blocked by the courts before they took effect. This time, despite a request for an interim measure, the US Supreme Court has yet to take any decision, in effect allowing the Texas law to enter into force.
Texas tightens abortion laws
According to the new regulations, in this state, an abortion will not be allowed if a heartbeat is detected in the fetus. This usually happens as early as the 6th week of pregnancy, when many women are not yet aware that they are pregnant. Exceptions to the prohibition are those that threaten the mother’s life or where an abortion could prevent “a serious risk of significant and irreversible impairment of an important bodily function” of a woman.
READ MORE ABOUT THE ACT: Prohibition of abortion from the moment “when the baby’s heart beats”. Texas tightens the rules
The new law differs from others in that, in practice, the enforcement of the ban is entrusted not to state authorities, but to citizens, who now have the right to bring lawsuits against abortionists after detecting a fetal heartbeat. Citizens submitting a lawsuit may receive at least 10 thousand. dollars if they win the case. According to experts, such a unique law enforcement mechanism is designed to make it difficult for courts to block new regulations.
Many doctors and women’s rights organizations harshly criticize the new Texas law. “Millions of people have just been cut off from access to abortion,” said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a US non-profit organization dedicated to protecting civil rights guaranteed by the constitution.
According to the ACLU, up to 90 percent of abortions in Texas occur after six weeks of pregnancy. According to the organization, the new law is “blatantly unconstitutional”.
The BBC notes, however, that the Supreme Court may overrule the law at a later stage.
Departure from precedent
The fact that the law comes into force with the passivity of the Supreme Court may herald the end of the current shape of the abortion law throughout the United States. The Texas law contradicts the precedents set in 1973 and 1992 by the Supreme Court in the cases of Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood. These judgments in practice prohibited the restriction of the right to abortion before the child was able to survive independently, i.e. before 20-22. week of pregnancy.
Whether or not the precedent will be dropped definitively may be decided by the Supreme Court next year when it deals with the Mississippi state law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A judge dominated by conservatives is to decide whether all abortion prohibitions before the fetus is viable are illegal.
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