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Texas Law That Bans Abortion Before Many Women Know They're Pregnant Takes Effect

This June 1, 2021, file photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.
This June 1, 2021, file photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

Updated September 1, 2021 at 12:48 PM ET

Legislation banning abortions after about six weeks is now the law of the land in Texas, effectively ending Roe v. Wade protections in the state.

In a move that surprised some high court watchers, the U.S. Supreme Court didn't act on an emergency request to stop the law from taking effect by midnight Tuesday. It allowed the policy to go ahead despite court challenges.

On Wednesday, President Biden called the law "extreme" and said it "blatantly violates" the constitutional right to abortion, adding that his administration will protect and defend that right.

The Texas law, passed in May, bans all abortions in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy — well before many women even know they are pregnant. The policy conflicts with the Supreme Court's precedents, which prohibit states from banning abortion before fetal viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Texas' new law is one of the most strict abortion bans in the nation.

It also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion, including those who give a woman a ride to a clinic or provide financial assistance in obtaining an abortion. Private citizens who bring these suits don't need to show any connection to those they are suing. If they prevail, the law entitles them to a minimum of $10,000 in damages, plus attorneys' fees.

Abortion providers said that if it remains on the books, it would block the vast majority of abortion patients from obtaining services in Texas.

Although the law has now gone into effect, legal challenges are ongoing.

"The Texas law will significantly impair women's access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes," Biden said in a statement. "And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual."

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