Fetal heartbeat bill becomes law, banning abortions as early as six weeks

The Supreme Court chose not to take action in a last minute effort to stop the law
Senate Bill 8 − or the Heartbeat Bill − bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks after conception. Wheat says this is often befor
Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 9:10 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As the clock ticked past midnight, a new law banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy took effect Wednesday in Texas after a last-minute effort by abortion providers to stop the law was unsuccessful.

“This is the most extreme abortion law in place anywhere in the United States,” Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas spokesperson Sarah Wheat said.

Senate Bill 8 − or the Heartbeat Bill − bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks after conception. Wheat says this is often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

The law also applies to women who are victims of rape or incest, but there is an exception for medical emergencies.

John Seago with Texas Right to Life says the law also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone involved in giving abortions.

“This relies on civil liability and saying that yes abortion industry you can break the law, however, you will be at risk of individual citizens bringing suits against you. And if they prove that you violated the law, there is a minimum $10,000 penalty to go with that,” Seago said.

“You may never have met that person, they may not even live in the same community as that person, and they can come in with a lawsuit that is incredibly invasive and intimidating and threatening,” Wheat said.

On Sunday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request made by several pro-choice advocacy groups to stop the bill. The next day, they filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court.

“The abortion industry then asked the Supreme Court for that last 11th hour relief to keep the bill from going into effect We expected that the court would rule before midnight if they were going to block the bill if they were going to get involved and they haven’t,” Seago said.

No action from the high court allowed the law to take effect − something Wheat says will endanger thousands of Texas women.

“Women who are seeking to terminate a pregnancy typically will find a way to do so and from our perspective, abortion is a part of healthcare and that should be an option that is available to Texans,” Wheat said.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on the law, but for the time being, it will stay in effect.

“We are very optimistic, but it’s still a pending question in front of the Supreme Court and so we’re not fully celebrating this yet until we see what the Supreme Court says which could be any minute now,” Seago said.

President Biden denounced the law on Twitter, saying, “Texas SB 8 will impair women’s access to health care and, outrageously, deputizes private citizens to sue those they believe helped another person get a banned abortion. It’s a blatant violation of the right established under Roe v. Wade. We will protect and defend that right.”

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