The vast majority of Texans are no longer able to access an abortion in the state, after the procedure has been banned except in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before most even know they are pregnant. In a vote with an adjusted result of five votes to four, the US Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block the new law, which allows private citizens to enforce the ban and possibly collect $ 10,000 if they win a case against an individual. that helps someone undergo the medical procedure.
Here’s what we know about the most restrictive abortion legislation in the US:
How can abortion be legally accessed in Texas?
To have an abortion under Texas law, a person should realize that they are pregnant very early in pregnancy. The law prohibits abortions from the moment a medical professional can detect the heart activity of the embryo, which usually happens between the fifth and sixth weeks of pregnancy. Cardiac activity does not confirm whether the pregnancy is viable and is detected with advanced technology before the heart forms.
The law includes a small exception for “medical emergencies,” but there are no exceptions for rape or incest.
How early is five or six weeks in a pregnancy?
Doctors mark the beginning of a pregnancy from the day of the last menstruation. Thus, someone with a regular 28-day menstrual cycle would be four weeks pregnant on the first day that they are not menstruating. That leaves a two-week window to confirm the pregnancy and make a decision about how to deal with it, but many women have irregular cycles, which would shorten that window. Others do not keep track of their cycles or cannot easily afford a pregnancy test or a doctor’s appointment.
Abortion providers and reproductive rights groups in Texas have said that between 85% and 90% of interventions take place after the sixth week of pregnancy. A full-term pregnancy lasts 39 weeks. Before the Supreme Court decision in Texas, the Roe v. Wade case had stopped laws that attempted to prohibit abortions before the fetus was viable outside the womb, which is generally considered 24 weeks.
What makes this law different from other restrictions on abortion in the US?
The most important thing is that he has survived an appeal in the highest court in the country. The Supreme Court had already blocked previous attempts by states to ban abortions before the pregnancy is viable, but it let this law pass in a decision made just before midnight on Wednesday.
Other laws banning abortions after the sixth week of gestation had already been passed, but were blocked by the courts before going into effect. This law is also unique in that it is enforced by individuals, and not by government authorities, who enforce it, making it more difficult to challenge in court.
Can individuals enforce this law?
Yes. Private citizens, including people living outside of Texas, can sue anyone they believe “aided or instigated” someone to have an abortion after the sixth week. If they win the lawsuit, they will receive $ 10,000 and their legal costs will be covered. The law is intentionally broad and could penalize family and friends for taking people to medical appointments or helping pay for transportation to do so.
In a federal lawsuit against the law, a coalition of abortion providers and reproductive rights groups said the law “offers a reward against people who perform or help perform abortions, inviting random strangers to sue them.”
Who does it hurt the most?
The effects of this law will not be felt equally. University of Texas researchers say the law would particularly affect black patients and to those who live on a low income. The main reason why medical interventions are delayed for Texans is that they need to raise the money to pay for them, they live far from the centers and do not have time to travel to the procedure because of work, study and childcare.
When access to abortions is limited, abortions are likely insecure increase. Each year, between 4.7% and 13.2% of maternal deaths are attributed to unsafe abortions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO says that nearly all abortion-related deaths and disabilities could be prevented through sex education, contraceptives, and access to safe abortions.
Will Texas Women Leave for Abortions?
Abortion was already difficult in Texas and its neighboring states. Clinics in other states have said they are already seeing an increase in appointment bookings.
But, once again, those with the resources to easily exit the state are likely to need the medical procedure the least. Funds to finance abortions raise money to help women make the journey, but it is no small task. At the same time, the funds could also be targets of this law.
Texas is almost three times the size of the United Kingdom, and if its territory were overlapped with the European, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague and Florence could be within the limits of the state.
What will happen now?
There are multiple lawsuits pending in Texas and civil disobedience is on the rise, with protests underway and donations that reach the abortion funds and reproductive rights groups. Texas-based immigration legal services group Raíces says it will continue to fund and support access to abortions. “We want to send a very clear message: Raíces will not abide by this archaic and macho law,” says the group’s director and president, Jonathan Ryan, it’s a statement.
What is Joe Biden doing about it?
The president said Thursday that he was instructing the White House Gender Policy Council to respond to this decision, with the help of the Department of Health and Justice to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe abortions and legal “. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that when Congress returns from recess, Democrats will introduce a reproductive bill, but it is extremely unlikely to pass the Senate.
Translation by Ignacio Rial-Schies.