Texas Abortion Law: Questions and Answers

A Texas law prohibiting most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy entered into force on Wednesday, despite the 1973 Supreme Cou...


A Texas law prohibiting most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy entered into force on Wednesday, despite the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to procedure, making the state the most restrictive in the country in terms of access to health services. abortion.

Other states have passed similar laws, but these measures face legal challenges. Texas law is the first to be implemented, after the Supreme Court failed to act on a blocking request. (Judges can still do this.)

However, due to the way the law has been drafted, it can be difficult to challenge in court, representing a dramatic change in the battle over abortion rights and invites imitation by others. jurisdictions seeking to impede access to abortion.

“These laws are unconstitutional, as we have understood Supreme Court rulings so far, and the courts have quickly issued preliminary injunctions blocking enforcement,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

“This is the first that has entered into force,” she added. “It’s huge in that regard.”

Here are the answers to some common questions about the new legislation.

Does the law totally prohibit abortions?

The law prohibits abortions once heart activity can be detected in the embryo. This usually happens around the sixth week of pregnancy.

It is very early in a pregnancy, and many women do not know they are pregnant at this time. By the time a pregnant woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant, as doctors usually define.

Under Texas law, therefore, a woman would have about two weeks to recognize her condition, confirm the pregnancy with a test, make a decision on how to handle the pregnancy, and obtain an abortion.

Many women may not closely follow their periods, have irregular cycles, or not know the exact date on which their last period started, experts noted.

“It is extremely possible and very common for people to reach the six week mark without knowing they are pregnant,” said Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, head of equity transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Cardiac activity detected on ultrasound is not a real heartbeat, added Dr Villavicencio. It results from electrical activity, but the valves of the heart have not yet formed. And the sound doesn’t indicate the pregnancy is viable, she said.

“Forcing them to find out about a pregnancy and make a decision about how to deal with it in a short period of time is antithetical to ethical care,” said Dr Villavicencio.

Does the law provide exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother?

The law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It allows abortions for health reasons, but the exceptions are narrow, allowing termination only if the pregnancy could endanger the life of the mother or cause “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function”, Ms. Nash noted.

“These are very narrow exceptions,” she said, and the language does not cover all cases in which a woman’s health could be at risk. Nonetheless, she added, “healthcare providers will be very careful about interpreting the law because they don’t want to overstep the line.”

Roe v. Doesn’t Wade guarantee a woman’s right to have an abortion? Can Texas law be challenged on constitutional grounds?

Texas law prohibits state officials from actually applying it, a design intended to make it difficult to challenge in court.

Usually, a lawsuit aimed at blocking such a law as unconstitutional names state officials as accused. Instead, Texas law directs private citizens to prosecute anyone who performs an abortion or “aids and encourages” a procedure. Claimants unrelated to the patient or clinic can sue and recover legal fees, as well as $ 10,000 if they win.

Therefore, the question for the Supreme Court is not whether the law is constitutional, but whether it can be challenged in court.

Does Texas now have the most restrictive abortion law in the country?

Other states – including Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio – have also passed “heartbeat” laws that ban abortion once heart activity can be detected by ultrasound.

These laws would also ban abortions around six weeks pregnant, 18 weeks earlier than the legal standard set by Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion for up to about 24 weeks, around the time a fetus can survive outside the womb. But these state laws have been delayed by legal challenges and have not been implemented.

Abortion providers in Texas estimate that 85 percent of patients seeking an abortion are at least six weeks pregnant and would be denied care under the state’s new law.

Who will be most affected by Texas law?

There are seven million women of reproductive age in Texas, and the law will make it harder for all to get an abortion in the state, as lawmakers wanted.

But the measure will create almost insurmountable obstacles for some vulnerable populations, abortion providers said. Among them: adolescent girls, who often do not realize that they are pregnant until later in the pregnancy; low-income people, who need to find around $ 550 to cover the cost of the procedure; and people of color, including undocumented immigrants.

About 70% of abortions in Texas in 2019 were performed on women of color, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Texas requires minors to obtain permission from a parent or guardian to access abortion care. Some minors have to go to court to do so, which lengthens the delays, said Rosann Mariappuram, executive director of Jane’s Due Process in Austin, Texas, which helps teenage girls have abortions.

Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, which helps low-income women pay for abortions, said she was particularly concerned about the potential impact of the new law on black women in Texas, who already do facing high maternal mortality rates.

Undocumented women cannot easily move around the state to access health care, she added, and women with chronic illnesses may face life-threatening pregnancies.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Texas Abortion Law: Questions and Answers
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