UNITED STATES. Texas: The US Justice Department says it will protect clinics that perform abortions in Texas, a state recently doomed with the Supreme Court’s decision of a near-total ban on voluntary abortions that take place as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
The department said it would “provide support from federal law enforcement” when a clinic, reproductive health centre or patient was “under attack”.
The controversial Texas law bans abortions from as early as six weeks into pregnancy, i.e. after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading.
It also gives any individual the right to sue doctors or anybody involved with the abortion past the six-week point.
The legislation, known as SB 8, that took effect last week has been largely criticised by doctors, lawyers and women’s rights groups.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said it “delivers catastrophe to women in Texas.”
United Nations human rights monitors have also strongly called out the state of Texas for its new anti-abortion law, which they say violates international law by denying women control over their own bodies and endangering their lives.
Reem Alsalem, the UN’s independent monitor on violence against women, said: “Through this decision the supreme court of the United States has chosen to trample on the protection of women’s reproductive rights, thereby exposing them and abortion service providers to more violence.”
The so-called “Heartbeat Act” was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May.
Anti-abortion law – ‘a very elegant use of the judicial system’
The new law which Texas state senator Bryan Hughes states as “a very elegant use of the judicial system,” gives no authority to Texas officials to enforce the law, but interestingly empowers private citizens to sue women and anyone who assists them for violating the ban.
That private citizen component of the law was key in thwarting the abortion-provider plaintiffs, on procedural grounds, from winning an injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court.
When district attorneys around the country, including some in Texas, publicly stated they would not enforce the SB 8 law that criminalized early abortions, Hughes, a Republican from Mineola, Texas and author of the “Heartbeat Act” said, “We had to find another way,” which evidently points at the private citizen component of SB 8.