Controversial legislation banning abortions after six weeks has now taken effect in Texas as of Wednesday morning.
The law comes into effect after the Supreme Court and a federal appeals court failed to take action when prompted by abortion providers. The law is now one of the strictest in the country and bans abortions before most women even know they are pregnant.
The law will allow private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant woman in getting an abortion, which includes those who give a woman a ride to a clinic or provide financial assistance in obtaining an abortion.
If the civil suit is successful, the fine is a minimum of $10,000 in damages plus attorney fees.
Under Texas law, abortion is prohibited when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually before a woman knows she is pregnant. The new law also makes it clear that no exception for rape or incest but does say “medical emergencies” are the lone exception.
The law, called “The Heartbeat Act”, was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott back in May.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has previously said the term “heartbeat” is misleading, and that what is being detected at this stage is “a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops”.
Several groups, including Planned Parenthood, condemned the new law and warned it would prevent millions of Texas women from their rights if there is no challenge in the future.
“Access to almost all abortion has just been cut off for millions of people, the impact will be immediate and devastating,” the ACLU said in a tweet.
A recent poll from the Pew Research Center indicates nearly six in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases