What you need to know about TX SB8

  • by Kirstie Kenton

What does the Texas abortion law do?

The “fetal heartbeat bill” (Texas law SB8) bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many people realize they are pregnant. There are no exemptions in cases of rape or incest.

Why is the law so unusual?

Instead of relying on officials to enforce the law, private citizens are allowed to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in "aiding and abetting" abortions. Plus, the law sets a $10,000 award for any successful lawsuit to stop an abortion. There’s even a hotline set up called "Texas Right to Life", where you can report anyone you think is breaking the new law.

What did the Supreme Court do?

The court simply let a midnight deadline pass without acting on a request to stop it.

After the law was enacted on Wednesday, the court announced that a five-person conservative majority decided to let the law stand, recognizing “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” but indicating that the way the law was set up, the court is unsure how to stop if from going into effect.

What does this mean for abortions in other states?

Two states this year have banned abortion after 12 weeks, and 17 others tried.

While the court did not rule on the merits of TX SB8, the fact that 5 of 9 justices allowed it to pass, suggests there is a majority ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that first established a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Research estimates that abortion could be severely restricted or illegal in as many as 22 states if the Supreme Court overturns it.

What does this mean for women in Texas?

It is estimated that 85 to 90 percent of women needing an abortion in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, which means most abortions are effectively banned in Texas.  

Policy research suggests that restrictive abortion laws do not reduce the abortion rate. When women are denied access to safe and legal abortions, they seek out unsafe methods to terminate a pregnancy.

What can I do to help?

First and foremost, stay updated on this story as it progresses.

Organizers are working to assist women in Texas who need an abortion. Many will need to travel to Louisiana, where abortion is legal but access is limited due to Hurricane Ida.

You can donate to a local organization at abortioncarenetwork.org 

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