Washington, United States | Most abortions became illegal Wednesday in the vast and ultra-conservative state of Texas, where an unprecedented law, encouraging people to speak out against offenders, went into effect overnight.
It could still be banned by the US Supreme Court, which was urgently considered on Monday by abortion-rights advocates.
Without waiting for his decision, President Joe Biden blasted the “radical” law with “shameful” provisions, promising to “protect” a woman’s right to abortion.
The text, signed in May by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, prohibits the termination of any pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy, when most women do not know they are pregnant.
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La loi, qui s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une offensive des États conservateurs contre le droit à l’avortement, ne prévoit pas d’exception en cas de viol ou d’inceste, mais seulement si la santéin de la femme este in danger.
More than 85% of abortions so far in Texas take place after six weeks of pregnancy, according to the state’s family planning organizations, which on Wednesday reported their severe dismay.
“I woke up sad, worried and stunned,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, director of Whole Women’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said at a news briefing.
One, in Fort Worth, had had abortions as of 11:56 p.m. Tuesday night, but had to stop with some patients still in the waiting room. “The doctors were crying and asking me: ‘What can we do for them?’ said Mrs. Miller.
“Patients are scared, confused, angry,” added Vanessa Rodriguez, who oversees Planned Parenthood’s Texas call centers. “We’re doing everything we can to try to help them…We’re looking for dates in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico…”
Prior to Texas, 12 states passed legislation to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat was observed. These laws were invalidated in court, as they violated the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court which recognized the right to an abortion as long as the fetus is not viable, i.e. around 22 weeks of gestation.
But Texas has phrased its law differently: it is not for authorities to carry out the procedure, but “exclusively” to citizens, who are encouraged to file civil complaints against organizations or people who assist women with abortions.
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The provision states that citizens who initiate proceedings receive at least $10,000 in “compensation” if convicted. Critics see the text as a “reward” for denouncing it, but its defenders have already set up online forms to provide “anonymous information”.
For procedural reasons, this device makes it difficult for the federal courts to intervene, which have so far refused to take action against the law.
Therefore, critics of the text had to go directly to the Supreme Court. But, contrary to its custom, the Supreme Court did not intervene in time to prevent the text from entering into force.
“an ominous omen”
This “does not mean the end of the Roe v. Wade case,” asserts law professor Steve Vladeck, referring to the court’s symbolic 1973 ruling that recognized a woman’s right to abortion. But the delay “is an ominous omen of what lies ahead in this or other case,” the academic adds.
Former President Donald Trump made a dramatic change to the Supreme Court, bringing in three out of the nine justices. Their arrival stimulated abortion opponents who have competed in fiction ever since to provide the Supreme Court with opportunities to reverse its jurisprudence.
And it’s already sent them encouraging signals: She agreed to review, this fall, a Mississippi law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, hinting that she could go back for testing.
Nearly half a century after the Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion continues to deeply divide the United States, with strong opposition to abortion in religious circles, and is a powerful tool for mobilizing voters on the right.
According to an NBC poll on Wednesday, 54% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the majority of cases and 42% is illegal.
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