A Texas law that will ban abortion in most instances is now set to go into effect Wednesday after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals canceled a hearing concerning it that had been scheduled for Monday, it was first reported by the Texas Tribune.
More than 20 abortion providers had hoped to block the law from taking effect and filed an emergency motion on Saturday seeking a stay. The conservative 5th Circuit denied the motion.
Best known as the “heartbeat bill,” the law will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, possibly as early as six weeks. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it in May.
The law differs from others in that it puts the onus of enforcement on private citizens, who will be permitted to sue doctors or anyone else who helps a woman get an abortion after a heartbeat can be detected. Damages of up to $10,000 per defendant can be sought.
“The life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Abbott said in a bill signing at his office.
Abbott has taken the extra step of vowing that Texas will ban abortions outright should the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade be overturned.
Critics say that provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the courts with lawsuits to harass doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors, a friend who drove a woman to a clinic, or even a parent who paid for a procedure.
“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,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Advanced technology can detect an electric signal flutter as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, even though the embryo isn’t yet a fetus and doesn’t have a heart. An embryo is termed a fetus beginning in the 11th week of pregnancy, medical experts say.
Texas law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for a woman with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality. More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.