LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Heartbeat Act, passed as Act 8 of the Senate in the 87th Ordinary Legislature, comes into force, along with 665 other laws, at midnight on September 1st.
The bill bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. This time period is much shorter than any other state restriction on abortion in the nation, prompting Texas abortion providers to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the emergency law.
“This is one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country,” said Sarah Wheat, director of foreign affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “The vast majority of people who can have an abortion will not be able to do so in Texas. We estimate that 85% of Texas patients who schedule and request abortion appointments will not be able to access these appointments. ”
Plaintiffs a Whole Women’s Health v. Jackson on Monday filed an urgent petition for precautionary measures with Supreme Court Associate Judge Samuel Alito.
“It’s about whether the law will go into effect or not,” said Professor Richard Rosen, who teaches constitutional law classes at Texas Tech University Law School. “If the law is simply pending litigation, nothing happens. The status quo is maintained. If you are allowed to move forward, you will see abortions, maybe after a heartbeat is detected, stop in Texas. “
The bill is also unique in its enforcement mechanism. The bill encourages private citizens, rather than government officials, to enforce the ban by filing their own lawsuits against abortion providers and anyone who helps someone get an abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas says the law will not affect operations in Lubbock. The city of Lubbock has already approved a total ban on abortion.
“The Lubbock ordinance, by the way, is clearly unconstitutional,” Rosen said. “The Court has said that premortal abortions cannot be banned.”
“We’ll see what the Supreme Court does,” Rosen said. “We will see how quickly [Justice] Alito will act or if he will send him to the plenary … I never predict problems of the Supreme Court. It always surprises me. “
Despite other litigation, the Supreme Court’s inaction on this issue will allow the law to come into force.