Highly Restrictive Texas Law Now Bans Abortions Before Many Women Know They're Pregnant

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Michael Reynolds/EPA Protestors outside the U.S. Supreme Court

A ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before most women know that they're pregnant — is now law in Texas after an attempt to stop the legislation from taking effect failed.

The highly restrictive law, which essentially eliminates the rights of Roe v. Wade, passed through the Texas legislature in May and took effect Tuesday after midnight after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to act on an emergency request to stop the ban.

The Supreme Court can still follow through on the request and halt the ban, but beginning Wednesday abortion providers in Texas, such as Planned Parenthood, said they will no longer perform abortions after six weeks from a person's last period.

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Under the law, private citizens can also sue abortion providers whom they suspect illegally performed an abortion after six weeks or anyone who aided in an abortion, including driving someone to a clinic or helping them with the cost. If the lawsuit is successful, they will be awarded a minimum of $10,000.

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The law, called Senate Bill 8, "would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close," abortion providers said in the emergency request to the Supreme Court.

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There are no exceptions in the law for pregnancies that are the result of incest or rape.

"Patients will have to travel out of state — in the middle of a pandemic — to receive constitutionally guaranteed health care. And many will not have the means to do so," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. "It's cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful."

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Texas' law is one of several attempts by Republican-led states to limit the right to abortion guaranteed by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case. Often called a "heartbeat ban," the law is based on when the fetal heartbeat can first be detected, the earliest being six weeks into pregnancy.

Anti-abortion groups have been vocal about enacting these near-bans to set up a legal battle in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court is expected to take up during its next term, which begins in October.