Texas’ governor has signed a law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, with the cut-off point being the detection of a fetal heartbeat and no exceptions being made for those who are victims of rape or abuse.
The unique law, signed by Greg Abbott on Wednesday, prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban but allows anyone else to sue a medical provider if they suspect them to be in violation of the rule.
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Mr Abbott said, according to CNN.
He added: “In Texas, we work to save those lives. And that’s exactly what the Texas legislature did this session.”
The deadline of six weeks often comes before many people may even know that they’re pregnant, around two weeks past a missed period.
Abortion providers will be required to check for a fetal heartbeat ahead of performing a procedure and will be prohibited from carrying it out if one is found.
The state currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with the only exceptions being for women who have a life-threatening medical condition or severe abnormality of the fetus.
Those wishing to sue could seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant in line with the so-called “hearbeat ban” and there is no exception for victims of assault.
The law instead cites that “public and private agencies provide ... emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest.”
Critics fear it would allow opponents of abortion to overwhelm the courts with lawsuits against anyone involved in aiding a person to seek an abortion, including doctors, nurses, friends, and family.
More than a dozen other states have signed into law similar abortion legislature, but federal courts have mostly blocked the measures from taking effect.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that it will hear a case involving a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks to consider whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion are unconstitutional.”
The decision has sparked fear among pro-choice advocates that a ruling in favour of the ban could pave the way for states to overturn Roe v Wade, the landmark supreme court decision protecting a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
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