The nation's most far-reaching curb on abortions since they were legalized a half-century ago took effect Wednesday in Texas, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.

If allowed to remain in force, the law, which bans most abortions, would be the strictest against abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.



It’s part of a broader push by Republicans across the country to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

What makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.

“Starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion," Abbott said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Texas will always defend the right to life.”

But protests were quick.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the law “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” He said the law “outrageously" gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion."

Likewise, the American Medical Association said it was deeply disturbed by “this egregious law” and disappointed by the Supreme Court's inaction.

The law “not only bans virtually all abortions in the state, but it interferes in the patient-physician relationship and places bounties on physicians and health care workers simply for delivering care,” said a statement from Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, the AMA president.

In a phone call with reporters, Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the abortion providers his group represents were still hoping to hear from the Supreme Court but “as of now, most abortion is banned in Texas."

Clinics have said the law would rule out 85% of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close. Planned Parenthood is among the abortion providers that have stopped scheduling abortions beyond six weeks from conception.

Abortion rights advocates say the Texas law will force many women to travel out of state for abortions, if they can afford to do so and also navigate issues including childcare and taking time off work. The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, says if legal abortion care in Texas shuts down, the average one-way driving distance to an abortion clinic for Texans would increase from 12 miles to 248 miles.

Abortion opponents who wrote the law also made it difficult to challenge the law in court, in part because it’s hard to know whom to sue.

Late into the night Tuesday before the ban took effect clinics were filled with patients, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Twenty-seven women were still in the waiting room after 10 p.m. at one clinic, leaving doctors crying and scrambling over whether they would see all of them in time, she said. The last abortion at one of her clinics finished at 11:56 p.m. in Fort Worth, where Hagstrom Miller said anti-abortion activists outside shined bright lights in the parking lot after dark looking for wrongdoing, and twice called police.

“This morning I woke up feeling deep sadness. I’m worried. I’m numb,” she said.

The law is part of a hard-right agenda that Texas Republicans muscled through the statehouse this year ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when Abbott is up for a third term as governor.

Another law taking effect Wednesday ended required firearm training and background checks to carry handguns in public in Texas, and GOP lawmakers on Tuesday approved election changes that will further tighten what are already some of the strictest voting laws in the nation.

Texas has long had some of the nation’s toughest abortion restrictions, including a sweeping law passed in 2013. The Supreme Court eventually struck down that law, but not before more than half of the state’s 40-plus clinics closed.

Lawmakers also are moving forward in an ongoing special session in Texas with proposed new restrictions on medication abortion, a method using pills that accounts for roughly 40% of abortions in the U.S.

Even before the Texas case arrived at the high court the justices had planned to tackle the issue of abortion rights in a major case that will be heard after the court begins hearing arguments again in the fall. That case involves the state of Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

———

AP writer Paul J. Weber reported from Austin, Texas.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(34) comments

Khal Spencer

Here is a good analysis of the actual legal questions being dealt with this week.

https://advisoryopinions.thedispatch.com/p/supreme-courts-texas-abortion-law

Angel Ortiz

We should just try to sell Texas back to Mexico but I doubt the Mexicans would want them either. Every news story out of Texas is becoming more and more ludicrous!

Prince Michael Jauregui

That's one small step for America, one giant leap for children.

Joe Schacht

That's one way to look at it, though I don't agree.

Comment deleted.
Mark Stahl

Who are you to judge?

Khal Spencer

Gee, and he even said "biscuit" instead of that other word.

Margaret Eyler

Yes!!!! This makes me so happy!!!

Scott Showen

Again, F^@$ Texas. Seriously. My body my choice for vaccines but not abortions? Texas is full of idiots.

Angel Ortiz

[thumbup][unsure]

Robert Fields

Two-faced idiots. It’s like having our own Taliban complete with giant flags hanging off pickup trucks, machine guns, and bibles. Civilization has hit its limits.

Al Martinez

Gilead rising next door. [scared]

rodney carswell

[ohmy]

Khal Spencer

"Gilead is a city of evildoers, stained with footprints of blood." From Hosea 6:6-8

paul pacheco

Your body, your choice! But not when it comes to the killing/murder of unborn babies! Yeah in Texas!

James Martinez

men get 25 seconds of fun. get to enforce a woman's 9 month pregnancy and excruciating pain during childbirth. causing babies with substance abuse problems and domestic violence later in life......??? NICE!!

Joseph Tafoya

Outstanding! Good for Texas, for stopping the murder of unborn babies.

Sabine Strohem

"My body, my choice"? Yeah, right.

Margaret Eyler

Unless the mother is carrying a lamp or helicopter or something….THAT new body has rights that should be protected.

Mark Stahl

So much for all the red state talk about personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

rodney carswell

Welcome to the GOP theocracy.

Margaret Eyler

It’s basic biology/legality. Scientists accept that life begins at conception, therefore the unborn’s rights should be protected as well as the mother’s.

In addition, if the new life is female, her “women’s rights” should be honored as well.

Khal Spencer

B does not follow A. The question is when does a fetus acquire legal standing of its own.

Khal Spencer

This is the result of politicizing rights. For every red state trying to erode abortion or voting rights, there is a blue state chopping away at Second Amendment rights. If you let partisans choose rights, this is the result.

Mark Ortiz

I'll agree for every this there's a that but A woman's reproductive health rights being banned (this is the end game right?) and some laws on guns aint' EVEN close to some equivalent. There is no chance in h e ll the 2nd amendment will ever be repealed and no half reasonable politician nor American is calling for a repeal.

There are on the other hand, zealots, with a genuine possibility of banning abortion, imprisoning women, and doctors, tho I get that wasn't your point, you were speaking of numbers and even on that, the assault on reproductive rights so much bigger than some folks regarding some gun laws. I'm sure you and I will disagree as I've seen your posts gun related.

rodney carswell

[thumbup] Mark O

Khal Spencer

Rights are rights. If you get into the baseball card trading philosophy of which rights are more equal than others and which are worth trading to some political clown car, you have put fundamental rights on the table as being negotiable politically.

There are already zeolots who were anxious to put a Black woman in jail on a felony for bringing a gun legally carried in Pennsylvania, by innocuous mistake, into New Jersey. The Dems were quite happy to make an example of her. Sh*t happens both ways.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/07/22/shaneen-allen-race-and-gun-control/

Kirk Holmes

[thumbup]

Joe Schacht

👍

Mark Ortiz

I'd chalk that up more to her race than her gun.

Khal Spencer

There has been quite a bit written about the racist roots of many gun laws, to be sure.

Jim Klukkert

Just in case anyone wonders what happened to the African-American single mom who did 40 days county time before she was released on bail. [we call that structural racism and structural class oppression]:

"The handgun that Shaneen Allen was carrying when she was pulled over on a New Jersey highway could have sent her to prison for years if not for a pardon from Republican Gov. Chris Christie."

CC is mostly a real a$$, but he does have a persistent streak of humanity.

The rest of this WaPo piece is an interesting read in how folks of varying perspectives can come together using their common sense and relying on their humanity. Khal is incorrect, and a little over the top when he writes "The Dems were quite happy to make an example of her." Just ain't so, Joe.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/07/22/shaneen-allen-race-and-gun-control/

Khal, just to be clear, most Constitutional scholars, and folks like me, do not see all rights as being equal. Frankly any Right is just a fabrication of the human imagination, and decidedly the result of intense debate and negotiation.

We must stand together to keep Government out of Women's bodies. I know that folks, women AND men, will be coming out in droves to make this so, the right way, not through the Courts, but through Legislation.

Khal Spencer

Here is a later article about Allen.

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20150403_Christie_pardons_Phila__mom_snagged_by_N_J__gun_law.html

"The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office originally denied the woman an opportunity to enter the diversionary program, indicating it wanted to use the case as a deterrent for people bringing guns not registered in New Jersey into the state."

So I have to disagree, Jim. The overwhelmingingly blue state wanted to make an example of her.

Note that Allen had a lawful permit issued in Pennsylvania, had no reason to lie to the cops and in fact volunteered when pulled over that she had the firearm and apparently had it for good reasons. NJ, overwhelmingly blue, did want to make an example of her even though she had not committed anything remotely violent and was fully cooperative. NJ has the most outrageous gun laws in the country and does to gun owners what Texas does to women: make their lives very difficult and tries to deny them an enumerated right while Texas ignores clear Supreme Court precident.

As far as all rights not being equal? I think when the Founders wrote the Bill of Rights, they may not have put each on an analytical balance and added legal concepts till the balance settled at the same value, but they did consider them all critical human rights, which is why they wrote the Bill of Rights to proscribe Federal and State government (through the 14A from infringing on them.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.

Khal Spencer

Indeed, for every this there is a that. I should add that the New York State law has a similar design, i.e., to run the gun industry into the ground with a law allowing NYS and its residents to litigate the gun industry to death as Cuomo tried to do a few decades ago.

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s7196

"§ 898-E. PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION. ANY PERSON, FIRM, CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION THAT HAS BEEN DAMAGED AS A RESULT OF A GUN INDUSTRY MEMBER'S ACTS OR OMISSIONS IN VIOLATION OF THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE ENTITLED TO BRING AN ACTION FOR RECOVERY OF DAMAGES OR TO ENFORCE THIS ARTICLE IN THE SUPREME COURT OR FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT."

(all caps in the original)

If we decide to pick and choose the rights we are willing to stand by depending on whether we are red or blue, we have a problem. I think the Texas law is an abomination, by the way. Perhaps we will have to develop an "underground railroad" to get needy Texas women to New Mexico so they can make the choice for themselves out of reach of Texas law. And if someone from Texas tries to sue a NM provider, I see trouble ahead. But that just goes to what NYS is trying to do to the gun industry.

All rights count.

Khal Spencer

Oh, back story. The NYS law was passed to allow the state of NY and individuals an end run around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by declaring guns a public nuisance. SS, DD. Litigation as a weapon. I'm not surprised a Red state would use the same tactics.

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