A law prohibiting abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a period in which many women still do not know they are pregnant, went into effect on Wednesday (1) in the state of Texas, after the US Supreme Court did not rule on a request of veto done by entities that defend the right to practice.
Enacted in May by the state governor, Republican Greg Abbott, the so-called Heartbeat Act makes no exceptions for rape or incest and is the most restrictive of its kind in the country. The Supreme Court may still accept appeals from civil rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, who challenge the constitutionality of the act.
The measure should ban almost all abortions in Texas, since 85% to 90% of women who undergo the procedure are currently pregnant for more than six weeks. Thus, several clinics that perform the procedure must close, say the entities that protest against the law.
US President Joe Biden responded by calling the law radical and vowing to uphold Americans’ constitutional right to abortion. According to him, the rule will “enormously complicate women’s access to health services, especially in black communities or those with fewer resources”.
“This radical Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established in the Roe v. Wade case and held as a precedent for nearly half a century,” the Democrat said in a statement, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established the right. to abortion in the US.
After this milestone, which allowed the termination of pregnancy while the fetus is not viable — until around 22 to 24 weeks — no other state has managed to restrict the right to abortion in early pregnancy.
Under Texas law, anyone can sue a clinic for performing an abortion after the fetus’s heartbeat is detected, which happens around the sixth week of pregnancy.
The complainant — who doesn’t even have to live in Texas or have any relationship with the pregnant woman — can also sue whoever assisted the abortion, such as who paid for the procedure or even the taxi driver who took the woman to the clinic, something unprecedented in the country .
The act goes further, rewarding people for watching over each other. Anyone who reports a clinic can receive at least US$10,000 (today, the equivalent of more than R$50,000) in compensation paid by the defendant, if the case is successful. For the ACLU, the initiative “creates a bounty hunting scheme that encourages prosecutions against anyone they believe has violated the ban.”
Abortion clinics in the state operated until midnight, when the act went into effect, rushing to see as many patients as possible before the ban took effect.
In her Twitter profile, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, president of the Chamber of Deputies, declared that the act nullifies protections for women and said she will fight for the maintenance of the right to abortion in the country.
In addition to Texas, other Republican states have tried to pass similar acts, but the Supreme Court has barred them all so far. The court is expected to hear in the coming weeks a case involving a Mississippi state law that prohibits abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergency or serious fetal anomaly.
It will be the first abortion case tried by the country’s main court since former President Donald Trump consolidated a conservative majority of six magistrates in the nine-member court.
The trial is expected to start in October this year and run through June 2022.
Encouraged by an increasingly conservative judiciary, US states have passed a record number of anti-abortion measures this year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which specializes in reproductive law, there were 90 restrictions in the first half of the year, surpassing the 2011 total.