Gov. Greg Abbott
(R) has signed anti-abortion legislation that effectively bans the procedure at six weeks, when many patients are unaware they are pregnant, and allows anyone to enforce the ban through lawsuits.
The legislation, like several other similar bills that have passed through conservative legislatures across the country this year, requires abortion providers to check for a “fetal heartbeat,” a term medical professionals say is misleading, when a patient comes in for an abortion, and outlaws the procedure if one is found.
Notably, the Texas legislation also allows any private citizen to enforce the ban through civil lawsuits, which reproductive rights
advocates claim is particularly ruthless.
“This egregious abortion ban
not only puts care out of reach for millions of Texans, but it also adds a vicious layer of intimidation to those seeking abortion care and to those who provide it: civil lawsuits,” Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health
, said in a statement.
The Center for Reproductive Rights' president and CEO, Nancy Northup, echoed the outrage over the bill's citizen enforcement provisions.
“This bill essentially opens the floodgates for anyone who is anti-abortion to sue doctors and clinics, consuming their resources and forcing them to close,” she said in a statement, adding that her organization will pursue all legal options to prevent the law from becoming law.
Most of the extreme anti-abortion bills passed this year have been mired in legal battles, preventing them from taking effect on time, as advocates for the legislation predicted, and they hope to take the fight to the United States Supreme Court
, which is now stacked with conservative justices.
The prospect of the Supreme Court setting a new precedent on abortion access has inspired hundreds of attempted abortion restrictions this legislative cycle, with more than 60 signed into law so far, though most are being challenged in court. Other states where governors have signed six-week abortion bans this year include South Carolina
The increase in bills can also be attributed to many anti-choice lawmakers winning seats in state legislatures last November. The Guttmacher Institute said last month that legislative attacks on abortion have been so numerous this year that it may be considered the most damaging period for reproductive rights on record.