Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Abortions as Early as Six Weeks

May 19, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on Wednesday a bill that not only bans abortions in the state before many women know they are pregnant, but, in a unique twist, gives private citizens the right to intervene in that choice to terminate the pregnancy.

In that latter sense, the Texas law is something of a departure from those passed in a dozen other states that ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Texas’s version allows anyone — even someone outside Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit, and seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant.

“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 at the statehouse where he was surrounded by dozens of legislators and supporters.

“We want to save those lives and that’s exactly what the Texas legislature did this session,” the Republican governor continued. “They worked together, on a biaprtsian basis to pass a bill that ensures that every child who has a heartbeat is saved from the ravages of abortion.”

Critics of measures like the one just signed into law in Texas argue advanced technology can detect an electric signal flutter as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, even though the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and doesn’t have a heart. 

The consensus among medical experts is that an embryo evolves into a fetus beginning in the 11th week of pregnancy.

Texas law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for a woman with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality. 

More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Texas law does not make an exception for survivors of rape or incest who become pregnant as a result of the crime against them. It only allows an exception for a woman suffering a medical emergency.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed to review a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and abortion rights supporters worry that a favorable ruling for the state could lay the groundwork for allowing even more restrictions.

The Texas law is already intensifying those concerns, with many abortion rights advocates fearing opponents of a women’s right to choose will inundate the courts with lawsuits once the law goes into effect on Sept. 1.

In a written statement posted to her organization’s website, Dyana Limon-Mercado, executive director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, said “Politicians in the Texas Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Greg Abbott, have passed one of the most extreme bills in the country by banning abortion at six weeks. 

“For a person with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only two weeks after a missed period,” she continued. “When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”

Limon-Mercado went on to say, “The Texas Legislature is wildly out-of-touch with the majority of Texans who have made it clear that they oppose extreme abortion restrictions.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, went a step further, calling Abbott’s signing of the bill “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,” Johnson said. “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. 

“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 concluded.

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