A new pro-life law in Texas that bars abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — or as early as six weeks into pregnancy — is infuriating Democrats both statewide and on the national stage.
What's the background?
The law, S.B. 8, went into effect at midnight Tuesday after the Supreme Court declined to take action on an emergency request to block it.
Under the new legislation, physicians in the state are prohibited from "knowingly perform[ing] or induce[ing] an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child ... or failed to perform a test to detect a fetal heartbeat."
However, the bill has no criminal enforcement provision for state officials. Rather, the ban will be "enforced exclusively through the private civil actions," allowing private individuals to police violations by suing those who perform an abortion or "aids and abets" it.
While abortion patients can't be sued, the law allows doctors, staff members at abortion clinics, abortion counselors, and anyone who helped pay for a procedure to be subject to a civil lawsuit. Scholars say this provision is what makes the law difficult to challenge.
What has been the reaction?
Democrats in the state are crying foul, claiming the law unfairly sidesteps the legal precedent established by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which together grant a constitutional right to abortion and forbid states from banning abortion before fetal viability — or the point at which babies can survive outside the womb, typically considered to be 22 weeks.
In a desperate emergency request to the Supreme Court, abortion providers lament that the new law will "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."
The Texas Tribune reported that major abortion providers Planned Parenthood and Whole Women's Health have claimed that the new law has resulted in "chaos on the ground."
As an example, women in Texas reportedly rushed to abortion clinics to have procedures.
In a tweet thread, Whole Women's Health said doctors and staff at its clinics in Texas reportedly stayed until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday before the law took effect to perform abortions, saying "waiting rooms are filled with patients and their loved ones."
From Whole Woman’s Health CEO @AmyHM: We have staff and doctors providing abortions in Texas - still at this hour -… https://t.co/CC0CEoWn5B— Whole Woman's Health (@Whole Woman's Health)1630463927.0
"We are under surveillance," the group added. "This is what abortion care looks like. Human right warriors."
Democratic politicians and media figures on the national stage have also filled social media with criticism for the new law.
President Joe Biden slammed the legislation in a statement, saying, "This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century."
Progressive Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) derided the law as racist and oppressive.
I’m thinking about the Black, brown, low-income, queer, and young folks in Texas. The folks this abortion health ca… https://t.co/Ue5HpCaJ0t— Cori Bush (@Cori Bush)1630503883.0
Hillary Clinton also took aim at the law and the Supreme Court's inaction in a tweet.
Under the cover of darkness, by choosing to do nothing, the Supreme Court allowed an unconstitutional abortion ban… https://t.co/EYwnsnXhXU— Hillary Clinton (@Hillary Clinton)1630511149.0
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) used the legislation as an opportunity to reference remarks she made during her 2020 presidential run.
Let’s be clear about what just happened in Texas: The second-largest state in America has effectively banned aborti… https://t.co/Kqac6JtT3I— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren)1630505502.0
Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders called the law "outrageous," adding, "Women get to control their bodies, not politicians and not judges."
Nearly half a century ago, the Supreme Court affirmed abortion as a constitutional right. This Supreme Court's refu… https://t.co/CbWRSf9OK5— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1630519870.0
Countless others have also taken to social media to voice their opposition.