Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law on Wednesday banning abortions in Texas as soon as a heartbeat is detected — but will leave enforcement up to private citizens who will be able to bring civil lawsuits against women who violate the legislation.
Private citizens, including people outside of Texas, will be allowed to sue abortion providers or those who may have helped someone terminate a pregnancy after the time limit, for up to $10,000 each.
“The life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Abbott said during a bill signing at his office.
Many have criticized the bill, claiming the provision would allow opponents to flood the court system with lawsuits against those who may have assisted in an abortion, such as doctors, nurses, domestic violence counselors, or even friends who drove a woman to an appointment.
“The goal is clear: to relentlessly attack our reproductive rights until abortion is a right in name only. Passing these bills is not leadership, it is cruelty and extremism,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
Texas currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions for the 20 week limit are those with life-threatening medical conditions, emergencies, or if the fetus has a severe abnormality.
In the U.S., more than 90 per cent of abortions take place before the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The law is set to take effect in September.