A Texas bill banning virtually all abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which can occur in as few as six weeks, went into effect at midnight on Wednesday after the Supreme Court did not move to block it.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed the controversial legislation, referred to as the “fetal heartbeat” bill by many, in May, and it was set to go into effect on Sept. 1.
The bill, in addition to prohibiting virtually all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, allows most private citizens to file lawsuits against abortion providers if they have a suspicion that the provider infringed on the new policy.
The law makes an exception for medical emergencies.
Abortion providers had asked the Supreme Court to block the contentious legislation.
A group of abortion providers on Monday filed a request to Justice Samuel Alito, who oversees emergency issues that stem from Texas.
The providers contended that the new Texas law violates the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout the country.
“Nearly fifty years ago, this Court held that Texas could not ban abortion prior to viability,” the group wrote in a court brief, referring to the Roe v. Wade decision.
“Yet, absent intervention from this Court, in less than two days, on Wednesday, September 1, Texas will do precisely that,” they added.
Two days before the “fetal heartbeat” bill took effect in Texas, the state House advanced separate legislation that seeks to restrict access to abortion-inducing medication.
Specifically, it aims to bar physicians or providers from dispensing abortion-inducing pills to patients who have been pregnant for more than seven weeks. Currently law allows such medication to be used until 10 weeks of pregnancy.
If the bill is approved on a third reading, it would be sent to Abbott’s desk for signature.