The controversial new abortion law passed in Texas—the most restrictive abortion law of any of the US states—has taken affect as of Wednesday, 1 September, sparking intense backlash from reproductive rights groups.
Advocates of women's rights argue that the new stringent law, for all intends and purposes puts a ban on abortion in the US state of Texas and is an violation of women's rights and dignity.
The law came into effect after a heated debate in the US Supreme Court wherein the presiding judges ruled against need for intervention with a vote that ended 4-5 in favour of allowing the law.
FIT breaks down what the law is and the controversy surrounding it.
What Does the Law Say?
The law doesn't outright place a ban on abortions, but dramatically restricts access to the point where it is virtually banned.
Here's what to know about the provisions of the law,
The law was first passed in May when it was signed by the Governer of Texas and Republican party member Greg Abbott.
It bans abortions beyond the point at which the fetal cardiac activity can be detected.
The only exception the law makes is in case of “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” of the woman.
It allows any individual citizen to file civil lawsuits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the ban.
This unique provision protects the court and government officials from contestation and lawsuit as it is not them rather the citizens that will be the enforcers of this law.
What makes it problematic?
For one, foetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into the gestation period.
This tiny window essentially rules out abortion as an option for many as most people do not know they are pregnant at this stage, virtually putting a ban on abortions altogether.
Moreover, the 6-week-ban does not make allowances for cases of pregnancy by rape or incest.
Apart from abortion clinics having to watch their backs and turn away people in need of care because they didn't make the cut off, many are contemplating shutting down altogether for fear of the cost of having to fight frivolous lawsuits, reported the Guardian.
The Tug of War With Abortion Laws in the US
This bill, the strictest of it's kind to come into affect in the US is a rung in the ladder of the Republican Party's attempt to tighten restrictions on abortion laws for years.
In 2013, Texas had passed a sweeping law tightening restriction on abortion clinics which was eventually struck down in 2016 on grounds of infringing women's constitutional rights to an abortion.
Such bills that put a restriction on abortions based in the cardiac activity of the foetus, called 'heartbeat' bills, are not new in the US. But while many have been passed, none of them have come into affect, until now.
In response to the bill, a group of abortion providers, Whole Women's Health, approached the supreme court asking them to block the law from taking affect on an emergency basis. However, their plea was dismissed.
The Supreme Court's decision on the law leaves room for future contestation, and could be struck down in the future.
Until then, all clinics and individuals offering abortion services in the state will have to abide by this law.
In the meantime, this decision also makes it more plausible for 'heartbeat' bills that have been passed in other states like Arkansas and North Dakota to come to affect.
(Written with inputs from the Guardian and New York Times.)