Texas Abortion Ban Sparks National Debate

A “six-week” abortion ban has recently gone into effect in Texas after the Supreme Court refused to give a ruling on the law’s constitutionality.

On Sept. 2, following tumult in the Texas state legislature between Democrats and Republicans, a bill was passed—the first of its kind in the United States—that bans abortion beginning six weeks after the woman’s last menstrual cycle, which is before many women know they are pregnant.

One of the distinguishing features of the “Texas Heartbeat Bill,” as it is sometimes known, is its broad loophole in reporting infractions of the law, which virtually deputizes any U.S. citizen to take legal action against a woman seeking abortion and any person who “aids or abets” such a procedure.

Under the text of the new law, “Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person who…performs or induces an abortion…[or] knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” including in cases of rape and incest.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent of the Court’s decision to not issue a ruling, said, “This equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability.”

Sotomayor continued, saying “…a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.” She also called the act “flagrantly unconstitutional” and claimed it “rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), in response to the bill’s policy regarding rape, said “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

The issue of abortion and the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade are set to be tested on Dec. 1 when the Supreme Court takes up a similar Mississippi law barring abortion after 15 weeks.