On Wednesday, Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) signed SB 8, a bill that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, into law.
The law, misleadingly called a “heartbeat” bill, bans abortion after six weeks, often before someone is even aware of the pregnancy, and allows private citizens to sue doctors or anyone else who helps a pregnant person receive abortion care after six weeks.
“It is appalling that in defiance of public opinion and public health, state politicians remain committed to controlling our bodies. With its private cause-of-action provision, this bill is one of the most extreme in the country and sets a dangerous precedent. Gov. Abbott and his anti-health care allies are not alone in completely botching the response to the pandemic and using attacks on our fundamental rights to avoid addressing real issues,” said Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Alexis McGill Johnson.
“With more than 500 abortion restrictions introduced this year alone and the Supreme Court’s decision to consider Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, it’s clear that since Roe, access to abortion has never been more at risk. The goal is clear: to relentlessly attack our reproductive rights until abortion is a right in name only. Passing these bills is not leadership, it is cruelty and extremism,” she said.
The new legislature comes days after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case regarding a Mississippi abortion law that puts the fate of Roe v. Wade in jeopardy. Anti-abortion policymakers have made no secret of their hopes to overturn the landmark ruling by enacting draconian laws that make receiving abortion care almost impossible in some states. If Roe is overturned, 24 states that have “trigger” laws would immediately outlaw all abortions in the state.
“There will always be women who will pursue having abortions despite what you do here today and what you’ve been doing for a decade to create all these obstructions,” said state Rep. Donna Howard (D), who is a former nurse. “It will always be a case that women will seek abortions, because women are not always in a position to have that baby. And you guys don’t have to have them, we do. It affects our lives.”
The new law puts state abortion funds, which help patients pay for abortion care, at risk for legal action.
SB 8 “allows literally anyone, including non-Texas residents who maybe have zero connection to the person having an abortion, it allows them to use lawsuits to harass people who help people access abortion care after six weeks,” said Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, a Texas abortion fund. “That would also obviously include us, as an abortion fund, who helps people access abortion care.”