Texas governor signs ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban, exposing abortion providers to legal action

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May 19 (Reuters) – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott enacted a “fetal heart rate” abortion bill on Wednesday that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy and grants citizens the right to sue physicians who perform abortions beyond this point.

The new law is part of a wave of similar “heartbeat” abortion bans passed in Republican-led states. Lawmakers who support such legislation have said it was intended to result in the annulment of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

The High Court this week opened the door for such a reversal, or at least a narrowing, of Roe v. Wade by agreeing to review Mississippi’s proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks. Read more

“Our creator gave us the right to life, yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we are working to save those lives,” Abbott said before sign the bill, in a video posted to Facebook.

Texas law prohibits abortion once the rhythmic contraction of fetal heart tissue can be detected, often at six weeks – sometimes before a woman realizes she is pregnant. The measure provides an exception for abortions in the event of a medical emergency.

A viable fetus outside the womb, at around 24 weeks gestation, is widely regarded as the threshold at which abortion can be banned in the United States.

Nearly a dozen states have adopted similar abortion bans, according to reproductive health research organization Guttmacher Institute, but none have come into effect due to legal challenges.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual convention in Dallas, Texas, USA on May 4, 2018. REUTERS / Lucas Jackson

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Abortion is one of the most controversial issues in the United States, with opponents citing religious belief as immoral, and abortion rights advocates prioritizing women’s empowerment.

“It is appalling that in defiance of public opinion and public health, state politicians remain determined to control our bodies,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson said on Wednesday in a statement. communicated.

Kimberlyn Schwartz, spokesperson for anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, called the law “a vital step on the road to the abolition of all abortions in Texas.”

Texas law, which will come into effect in September if not stopped in court, allows citizens to prosecute anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or encourages the performing or inducement of an abortion, including the payment or reimbursement of the costs of an abortion the abortion through insurance or otherwise ”, if the abortion violates the provisions of the law.

“This bill essentially opens the floodgates to allow anyone opposed to abortion to sue doctors and clinics,” the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement, promising to “pursue all legal options” to prevent the law to come into force.

In an open letter earlier this month, some 200 Texas physicians said they feared the law could put physicians at risk of “frivolous lawsuits that threaten our ability to provide health care.”

“As licensed physicians in Texas, we implore you not to arm the judiciary against us to make a political point,” the letter reads.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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