A law banning abortion starting at six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy has gone into effect in Texas. The law, SB8, was slammed by President Joe Biden as ‘extreme’ and ‘blatantly’ violating constitutional rights.
Effective Wednesday, the law prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat, as anti-abortion activists call it, is detected. Some medical officials have called that term misleading and women’s rights groups have rallied against the law.
The so-called Heartbeat Act, signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May, also allows individuals to sue doctors who perform abortions after six weeks of a pregnancy.
Abortion providers filed an emergency appeal to the law and Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested that the Supreme Court block the law, but the high court did not act.
‘Access to almost all abortion has just been cut off for millions of people,’ the ACLU stated early Wednesday, explaining that 90% of abortions in Texas occur after the six-week mark. The ACLU called the law ‘blatantly unconstitutional’.
Planned Parenthood vowed to continue standing for women’s rights.
‘No matter what, we aren’t backing down and we are still fighting,’ Planned Parenthood tweeted. ‘Everyone deserves access to abortion.’
In a statement, Biden said the law ‘blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century’.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v Wade enabled women to choose having an abortion until a fetus is viable or able to survive outside the womb, which is typically between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Biden stated that ‘the Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes’. He added that it ‘outrageously’ deputizes people to bring lawsuits against anyone they think has helped a woman have an abortion, including family members, health care workers, clinic staff and even strangers.
‘My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right,’ Biden concluded.
During her briefing on Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that ‘codifying Roe v Wade as the law of the land is something Congress can do and (Biden) will continue pushing them to do’.
The Supreme Court can overturn the ban in the future.
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Author: Jessica Kwong