A few months ago, Governor Greg Abbott signed the “heartbeat law,” and everyone on the left was screaming about going to the courts to fight for “reproductive rights.” Frankly, I thought we’d be in the courts by now rather than watching the new law go into effect.
So what happened? Well, the law was written in such a way that it makes it difficult to challenge in the courts. This is from the Texas Tribune:
One of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills — which bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy — took effect at midnight after the U.S. Supreme Court did not take action on an emergency appeal by Texas abortion providers Tuesday.
The law prohibits abortions whenever an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal “heartbeat,” though medical and legal experts say this term is misleading because embryos don’t possess a heart at that developmental stage.
Providers and abortion rights advocacy groups say this would affect at least 85% of the abortions taking place in the state. Many people don’t know they are pregnant within the first six weeks.
But the state wouldn’t enforce the law. SB 8 instead provides enforcement only by private citizens who would sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a “heartbeat” is detected.
This mechanism could allow SB 8 to skirt Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, within some limits.
So did Texas just abort Roe? I cannot say yes because the challenge to Roe has not reached the Supreme Court. At the same time, the justices may be showing their hand and indicating that they are open to reviewing the 1973 opinion. My guess is that the High Court will agree that states can regulate abortion, effectively killing Roe.