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Supreme Court Declines to Intervene, Strictest Abortion Law in Country Remains in Effect in Texas

The Supreme Court as composed October 27, 2020 to present. Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Back row, left to right: Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Credit: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Doctors, Family Members and Even Uber Drivers Could Potentially be Prosecuted Under New Law

Wednesday at midnight the most restrictive abortion law in the country went into effect in Texas,
effectively banning the procedure for most women and offering private citizens a $10,000 bounty to act as the law’s enforcers.

The law, SB 8 limits the window for abortions in the state to around six weeks, or as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. 

Following the bill’s passage in May, a triumphant Texas Governor Greg Abbot declared, “This bill ensures that every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”

Opponents rallied to point out that it would be Texas women that would truly suffer under the directive since most women do not know they’re pregnant by then and 85 to 90 percent of procedures occur after six weeks according to abortion advocates. While the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — which represents 58,000 physicians across the US — said the whole use of the term “heartbeat” in the bill was misleading.

“Arbitrary gestational age bans on abortion at six weeks that use the term ‘heartbeat’ to define the gestational development being targeted do not reflect medical accuracy or clinical understanding,” Dr. Ted Anderson said, adding.

“Pregnancy and fetal development are a continuum. What is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops.”

There was some hope that the U.S. Supreme court would intervene at the last minute thanks to an emergency appeal from abortion providers, but a 5-4 vote late Wednesday by the 6-3 majority conservative court to allow the ban to remain in effect, dashed them — and may have spelled the beginning of the end for Roe v. Wade protections for the entire country

"The Act is a breathtaking act of defiance — of the Constitution, of this Court's precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas," Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a blistering dissent. "The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law."

President Joe Biden stepped in with a warning of his own Thursday saying the law, "unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts," in a statement directing federal agencies to act to protect the right to abortion enshrined in the high court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, adding, "Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women."

That violation of privacy, ironically, is what has allowed this “heartbeat bill” to go into effect whereas efforts by other states including Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina have been stopped by the courts.

Under the new law, which does not make exceptions for rape or incest, $10,000 will be rewarded to plaintiffs — who do not have to live in Texas, have any connection to the abortion or show injury from it, for each illegal abortion aided by the defendant. Defendants, even if they prevail, are not entitled to legal fees. 

Targets of such suits could include doctors, clinics, people who provide pay or counseling for the procedure and perhaps even someone who provides transportation, like an Uber or Lyft driver

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