Texas law gives limited window for abortions

DALLAS (AP) – Gov. Greg Abbott, in defending a virtual abortion ban in Texas, says women and girls who are raped will not be forced to give birth because the new law “provides at least six weeks for that a person is able to have an abortion.

But that’s not how pregnancy works.

Texas law – that the Supreme Court of the United States authorized to take effect September 1 – prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect heart activity, which is usually around six weeks pregnant. However, six weeks pregnant does not mean that a woman has six weeks to make a decision.

Here’s a look at the new Texas law considered the biggest affront to constitutional abortion rights in decades:

When will we know she is pregnant?

A positive pregnancy test does not mark the first day of pregnancy. Instead, gestational age is measured by the first day of a woman’s or girl’s last period. A typical menstrual cycle lasts 28 days, although many people have irregular cycles that are longer or shorter than this. Ovulation – when an egg is released from an ovary and conception is very likely – occurs around the middle of the cycle.

Usually, women do not take a pregnancy test until they have missed their period. Those with irregular cycles or unplanned pregnancies may not learn about pregnancy until after six weeks.

Extra-sensitive pregnancy tests can sometimes detect a pregnancy about five or six days before a missed period. This means that a person who has a regular period and follows their cycle carefully could have a positive result no earlier than four weeks after the onset of pregnancy. It would give her two weeks or less to have an abortion in Texas.

“This law doesn’t give you six weeks after finding out you’re pregnant,” said Amy Jones, executive director of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.

Jones said she was “confused by (Abbott’s) statements and disheartened”.

“The confusing information about this law really makes a survivor not understand what to expect if she has to seek services to terminate a pregnancy, and I think that can be shocking and possibly traumatic,” he said. she declared.

How many women and girls could be affected by this law?

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission reports that about 15% of the roughly 55,000 abortion procedures performed in Texas in 2020 took place within six weeks of gestational age. This represents around 8,000 abortions.

The state’s figures are consistent with the claim by abortion providers that the law would ban at least 85% of abortions in Texas. In 2020, that would have been around 47,000 abortions.

Abbott, a Republican, made his comments Tuesday at a press conference when asked if the new law would force a person who has been raped to carry her pregnancy to term because it does not require exceptions for rape or incest. He replied, “It doesn’t require that at all, because obviously it gives a person at least six weeks to have an abortion.”

Abigail Aiken, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies reproductive health, explains that someone may not realize that their period is a few days or even a week late, “and that brings you already at about five weeks “.

“And then after that… you might need a while to make a decision on what you want to do about this pregnancy, then you have to go through the obstacle course that Texas law has already set in. place to access the abortion clinic in this state, ”Aiken said.

State law requires that people seeking an abortion visit an abortion clinic at least twice, waiting at least 24 hours to return after the initial visit. Other requirements include ultrasounds and counseling materials.

During the press conference, Abbott also pledged to “wipe out all street rapists.” Abbott’s office did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.

What are the details of Texas law?

The law allows any private citizen to sue Texas abortion providers who break the law, as well as anyone who “helps or encourages” a woman or girl to have the procedure. However, patients who have had an abortion themselves cannot be prosecuted.

The person suing does not need to have a connection with the person having the abortion. And the person suing is entitled to at least $ 10,000 in damages if he wins in court. Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, launched a website for advice on the alleged violations and says he has lawyers ready to take legal action. However, the website went down on Thursday, days after host GoDaddy launched it, claiming it violated the company’s terms of service.

A spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life noted that the website is mostly symbolic since anyone can report a violation and because abortion clinics appear to be following the law.

What happens next?

A case is still pending before the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals, although the timing of future actions is unclear.

The Supreme Court has refused to prevent the law from coming into force while this case makes its way through the court system. In its 5-4 decision, the court stressed that it was not dealing with the constitutionality of the law – only that those seeking an emergency stay had not faced the heavy burden of blocking it.

Thusday, the Department of Justice sued Texas on the law, arguing that it was enacted “in open disregard of the Constitution”. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare the law invalid.

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