Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Wednesday one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills, prohibiting the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected in a challenge to limits of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.
The signing of the bill comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a major abortion case in Mississippi that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
The Texas law, which passed with overwhelming Republican support, allows almost any private citizen to sue an abortion provider or others who “aid and abet” an abortion in violation of the restriction. The new law will go into effect on Sept. 1.
A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks before many women know they are pregnant. Empowering private citizens with the power the sue gives the Texas law a twist not found in other similar “heartbeat” bills passed around the country.
“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said during a signing ceremony that was posted on social media. “In Texas, we work to save those lives and that’s exactly what the Texas Legislature did this session.”
Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values, said the modification is meant to weather legal challenges since private citizens will be able to enforce the law instead of the state.
“The Texas heartbeat law is very simple, if a heartbeat is detected, the baby must be protected,” Saenz said in a statement. “We are proud that Texas, Gov. Abbott, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are leading the way with the strongest heartbeat law in the country. SB8 is designed to withstand the usual legal challenges and will protect babies in the womb from abortion.”
Abortion rights advocates said the law will lead to a wave of lawsuits by abortion opponents that will drain the legal resources of abortion organizations.
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