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New Texas Abortion Ban is Enforceable by Fellow Citizens Suing Providers

Prohibits procedures after detection of a heartbeat...

(Associated Press) Texas became the largest state Wednesday with a law that bans abortions before many women even know they are pregnant, but with a unique provision that essentially leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits against doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott puts Texas in line with more than a dozen other states that ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks.

Federal courts have mostly blocked the measures from taking effect.

But with the Supreme Court this week agreeing to take up a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, pro-abortionists worry that a ruling favorable to the state could lay the groundwork for allowing even more abortion restrictions, including heartbeat bills.

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Texas’s version is unique in that it prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban.

Instead, it allows anyone — even someone outside Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit, and seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant.

Critics say that provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the courts with lawsuits to “harass” doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors, a friend who drove a woman to a clinic, or even a parent who paid for a procedure.

Texas law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for a woman with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality.

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More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Supreme Court will probably hear the Mississippi case in the fall, with a decision likely in spring 2022.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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