AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A new Texas law that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected took effect Wednesday, after the U.S. Supreme Court did not take up an emergency request by pro-choice groups to block it.
While Senate Bill 8 does not outline a specific timeline of when such abortions would be prohibited, a fetal heartbeat can be detected as soon as six weeks into the pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.
The Republican-backed law allows any Texas citizen to sue physicians or anyone who aids in or abets an abortion for up to $10,000, if a heartbeat was detected in the womb at the time of the abortion.
The U.S. Supreme Court had until midnight on Tuesday to act on an emergency request by clinics and abortion advocacy groups. With the high court’s inaction, the law went into effect — making it the most restrictive law in the nation.
Because the abortion ban is so early in a pregnancy, it conflicts with current Supreme Court precedent, which prevents states from banning the procedure before the fetus is viable — meaning, its ability to live outside the mother’s womb. The high court could still take action soon.
A group of abortion advocates held a protest called “Bans Off Our Bodies” at the Texas Capitol at noon on Wednesday.