The “heartbeat bill” was enacted into law on September 1, 2021. It is probably the most restrictive law in the US since the 1973 landmark Roe V. Wade to take effect.
The law prohibits women from procuring abortion after six weeks- a period where many women do not know whether they are pregnant. The controversial law goes a step further to provide a “bounty” of $10,000 to private citizens who report women procuring abortion past the six weeks’ mark and those who are aiding them.
For many women in Texas, getting an abortion in Texas was already tricky without the bill. In a state spanning 270,000 square feet, there are just 11 Planned Parenthood clinics with a seven-week waitlist. A period that is just over the time stipulated in the new law.
With the bill taking effect early Wednesday morning, abortion clinics have seen a decline in the number of patients they serve. Whole Women, an abortion provider in Texas, has seen a drop in the women they serve as they only perform the procedure after conducting a sonogram. They are only providing services when the embryo is without any cardiac activity.
It is projected that the law will lead to near-zero abortions in Texas; this is because 85 to 90 percent of all abortions in Texas happen to post the six-week mark. According to Planned Parenthood, they receive many phone calls from women unsure whether they qualify for an abortion under the new Texas law.
The bill was not without push back; abortion providers went to court in an attempt to stop the bill from becoming law, but the Supreme Court denied their request formally by a 5-4 vote. In an unsigned opinion, the majority wrote that while the clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of Texas.
Law,” they had failed to meet a burden that would allow the court to block it at that time due to what they referred to as “complex” and “novel” procedural questions.
There were several dissents among the Supreme judges. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the judges to dissent, expressing her frustrations, said, “The court should not be so content to ignore its unconstitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedent and of the rule of law.”
The justices that voted for the bill to remain law have voiced their stance on abortion on previous occasions. Justice Clarence Thomas, for example, in 2019 publicly said that Roe V. Wade was wrongfully decided, declaring the abortion jurisprudence to have “spiraled out of control.”
The law has faced much backlash, with UN experts condemning it and referring to it as “sex discrimination at its worst.” According to the UN’s human monitors, the law violates international law by denying women control over their bodies and endangering their lives.
Companies such as Bumble and Match, both women-led, have come strongly to criticize the bill. Bumble has provided a relief fund for its female workers that would like to obtain an abortion. Lyft and Uber have come out to say that they will cover the legal fees for their drivers should a legal suit be levied against them for “aiding and abetting” women who decide to get an abortion.
With protesters rallying against the bill, companies that are otherwise very vocal in speaking against a very discriminative voting bill are reticent. The democrats, on the other hand, have promised to have the “situation” in Texas remedied. How? We’ll have to wait and see.
The U.S department of Justice has filed a civil suit, challenging the controversial abortion law. The justice department argues that the law proffers no exceptions for rape and incest cases and termed it “illegally interferes with federal interests.” On Thursday Vice President Kamala Harris said that the right of women to make their own choices on reproductive rights and decisions about their bodies was “not negotiable.” Additionally, she said that President Joe Biden and she supported the Rode V. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Attorney General Merrick Garland in a briefing last Thursday said, “The act is clearly unconstitutional.” Merrick strongly felt that it was more than likely that other states would follow suit. He said that the department of Justice department “would protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services,” under a federal law known as “the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances.”
The Justice department is seeking a permanent injunction from a federal court in Texas but it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say.