“Abhorrent” and “unconscionable” were words used Wednesday by women’s health and rights advocates to describe the latest extreme ban on abortion care as Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that bans the procedure after six weeks and allows virtually any private citizen to attempt to penalize abortion providers in the state.
The law, which provides no exceptions for survivors or rape or incest, is set to take effect in September.
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“The cruelty is so clearly the point,” tweeted NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Along with the ban, which would put abortion care out of reach for women before many even find out they are pregnant, Senate Bill 8 allows any citizen—regardless of their connection to a patient or lack thereof—to sue anyone who “aids or abets” abortion care.
As The Guardian reported, the measure opens up “a breathtakingly wide range of possible people and groups” who could be sued for helping someone to access an abortion.
“This law is so broadly written it could target not just abortion clinics and staff but anyone that volunteers or donates to an abortion fund or activist organization like ours,” Aimee Arrambide, executive director of reproductive rights advocacy group Avow Texas, told The Guardian. “Domestic violence and rape crisis counselors who offer guidance, family members who lend money to abortion patients, a friend who gives a ride to an appointment, or even someone that provides an address to a clinic could also face lawsuits.”
The bill’s proponents added an amendment to the legislation to prevent those who commit rape or incest resulting in an unwanted pregnancy from taking legal action. But the provision applies only to people who are convicted of a crime—a vanishingly small number considering that an estimated 91% of survivors in Texas do not report rapes to the police and given that accused rapists are rarely convicted in the state.
While Abbott and the Republican legislators who pushed the bill through have labeled the legislation a “heartbeat bill” because it bans abortion after cardiac activity—though not an actual heartbeat—can be detected, state Rep. Donna Howard called S.B. 8 a “forced pregnancy act” before its final passage.
“This bill empowers rapists and abusers, and lawyers and trolls who want to abuse and clog up our courts,” said Howard, a Democrat. “And this forced pregnancy act will drive women back into the [pre-Roe] shadows out of fear of harassment through lawsuits that anyone in this country can file.”
The bill has been condemned by more than 370 attorneys, who said it would have a “destabilizing” effect on Texas’s legal system, as well as more than 200 physicians across the state.
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