Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 1, 2021 / 09:02 am (CNA).
Pro-life groups on Wednesday said they were ready to assist women facing unexpected pregnancies, as Texas’ “heartbeat” law went into effect.
“Organizations like mine will not rest because we are actively helping women facing unexpected pregnancies,” stated Chelsey Youman, Texas legislative director for the group Human Coalition Action. Human Coalition operates a nationwide network of women’s care centers, providing both in-person and remote health care.
The “Texas Heartbeat Act,” signed into law in May and effective Sept. 1, prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The law only includes exceptions for medical emergencies.
However, the law is enforced through private lawsuits and not by the government.
On Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court did not act on a petition to halt Texas’ law from going into effect by Sept. 1. Abortion providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, had unsuccessfully challenged the law in court. On Monday, they made an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court to halt the law from going into effect.
As of Wednesday morning, the court had not acted on the petition, and the Heartbeat Act went into effect.
Pro-life groups on Wednesday pledged their assistance to expectant mothers in the state.
“NIFLA’s network of more than 1,600 pregnancy centers and medical clinics stands at the ready to help mothers and babies in a post-Roe America. We are here to empower the choice of life,” said Thomas Glessner, president of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. The group provides legal counsel, education, and training to more than 1,600 pregnancy centers nationwide.
“Texas has health centers to support pregnant and parenting families. Let’s make sure every pregnant mom gets the necessary support if faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, in a tweet on Wednesday.
“While today we are hopeful for the thousands of babies whose lives will be saved, we are also hopeful for their mothers. Texas has spent decades creating a vast support system for pregnant women for this very day,” Youman said.
Pro-abortion groups criticized the law on Wednesday.
“Access to almost all abortion has just been cut off for millions of people. The impact will be immediate and devastating,” the Twitter account for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated.
“This isn’t over. Together, we can stand up for access to safe and legal abortion and reject these attempts to strip us of our health and rights,” the twitter account for Planned Parenthood Action stated.
The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List on Wednesday hailed the “historic moment in the fight to protect women and children from abortion.”
“We’re excited to see the Heartbeat Act save lives starting today and stand with our allies on the front lines serving mothers and families,” said the group’s president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Under Texas’ law, doctors are required to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion.
Private citizens may sue because of illegal abortions, and can take legal action against anyone who performs an illegal abortion or who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” an illegal abortion, “including paying for or reimbursing the costs of abortion through insurance or otherwise.” Lawsuits can also be brought against anyone who “intends to engage” in performing or assisting an illegal abortion.
Successful lawsuits against could net at least $10,000 in damages, plus court and attorney fees.
The group Texas Right to Life created a website to receive tips on alleged illegal abortions, to help facilitate legal action. According to Spectrum News 1, some activists sought to flood the website with false tips or extraneous information.
On Tuesday, the Travis County court in Texas issued a temporary restraining order, preventing Texas Right to Life and its legislative director from filing lawsuits under the law against three specific plaintiffs.
“Texas Right to Life never threatened to sue these specific plaintiffs,” the group stated of the order.
The law goes into effect as the Supreme Court is set to hear a critical abortion case this term in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In that case, the court will consider Mississippi’s restrictions on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and will decide the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional?”
“With the Dobbs case on the horizon, we hope that the Court is finally ready to let this debate move forward democratically, restoring the right of states to protect our most vulnerable brothers and sisters,” Dannenfelser stated on Wednesday.
This article was updated with new information on Sept. 1.