Legislators in Texas, USA, have now passed highly controversial abortion laws which severely restricts access to the central healthcare tenet. The move essentially spells the end of Roe vs Wade in the southern state, opening a new frontier in the battle over abortion rights in the US.
What does the new law mean?
The new law has put in a near-total ban on abortions in the state.
The legislation bans abortion after the stage of “embryonic cardiac activity”, otherwise known as a heartbeat.
This begins at around six weeks after conception – a point where most do not even know they are pregnant.
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This includes someone who drives a friend to a clinic or provides financial help.
Even more bizarrely, citizens who choose to sue do not need to demonstrate any connection to the person they are suing, and if their case succeeds, the law states they are entitled to at least $10,000 in damages and additional legal costs – essentially giving anyone who needs an abortion a state-sponsored bounty.
Abortion rights campaigners have said the legislation will only push people into getting illegal, unsafe abortions, and won’t actually reduce the number of abortions in the state.
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Is this the end of Roe vs Wade?
The US Supreme Court received an emergency request to stop the law from taking effect by midnight on Tuesday but chose not to act, allowing the policy to become law despite challenges to the legislation in court.
The law goes against Supreme Court precedents that have stopped states from passing laws banning abortion before fetal viability previously, which is usually after between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion providers say that if the law is allowed to remain in place it would stop the vast majority of patients seeking an abortion from getting one safely in Texas.
The law is now in effect but is being challenged in court.
Most abortions in Texas were prohibited after about 20 weeks. Pill-induced abortions were barred at 10 weeks.
An abortion provider must perform a sonogram on the woman 24 hours before the abortion and give them information about medical risks, abortion alternatives and assistance available to those who follow through with their pregnancy.
Some 56,600 abortions were performed on Texas residents in 2019, according to state statistics, most of them in the first trimester.