As of September 1st, the termination of pregnancies after 6-weeks gestation has been banned in the US state of Texas. Following the enactment of The Texas Heartbeat Act, persons seeking abortive services past this 6-week period, including cases of rape and incest, are liable to be sued by private citizens for damages starting at $10,000 (£7,230). This legal punishment also extends to those found ‘aiding and abetting’ illegal abortions, targeting many women’s healthcare providers and pro-choice activists throughout the state.
Despite attempts made by Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, and the Centre for Reproductive Rights to halt the bill’s enactment, in a 5-4 ruling made by the Supreme Court it was decided the controversial law would be allowed to pass. Given that most women are unaware of their pregnancy within the first 5-6 weeks, a research brief by The University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project stated “8 out of 10 women seeking abortions would be prevented from obtaining abortion care”. The brief also goes on to explain the law’s expected disproportionate impact on “Black patients and those living on low incomes who were already experiencing delays in access to care,” a notion shared by many civil rights and pro-choice activist groups.
In a statement made by the current US President Joe Biden, he described the Supreme Court ruling as “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years.” The Roe v. Wade case referenced was a landmark decision made in 1973 granting American women the right to abortions before foetal viability– around 3 months into pregnancy.
As the nature of the law leaves many healthcare providers vulnerable to expensive lawsuits, many are left with little choice but to comply in order to continue giving services to the communities that rely on them.