A Texas law banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected went into effect at midnight after the US Supreme Court chose not to act on an emergency petition by abortion advocates to stop the measure.
The "Heartbeat" Act (SB 8) bans most abortions in the state because the fetal heartbeat is detected around the six-week mark and before most women even know they are pregnant.
The new measure won't be enforced by law enforcement officials. Instead, private citizens are now authorized to sue abortion providers or anyone involved in facilitating an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
Pro-life activists celebrated the law going into effect.
"Every child with a detectable heartbeat is legally protected from being killed by abortion," Lila Rose, founder and president of Live Action tweeted. "Thinking of all the inestimably precious lives that will be spared today & their new lease on life An amazing day."
Abortion advocates condemned the law, arguing that it 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.
"Access to almost all abortion has just been cut off for millions of people. The impact will be immediate and devastating," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted.
"The law bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy — before many people even know they’re pregnant. The result is that many Texans will be forced to carry pregnancies against their will."
When Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed the Heartbeat bill back in May, he put its purpose in simple terms.
"Our Creator endowed us with the right to life," Abbott said. "And yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives. That's exactly what the Texas legislature did this session. They worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I'm about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion."
The new law puts Texas in line with more than a dozen other states that are taking aggressive steps to defend the unborn.
Meanwhile, a Travis County judge issued a temporary restraining order against Texas Right to Life and Seago on Tuesday, preventing them from filing lawsuits against three specific people. This ruling does not affect others who wish to sue for violations of the Heartbeat bill.
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