AUSTIN, Texas (NewsNation Now) — With the Texas law banning most abortions in the state of Texas taking effect Wednesday, some wonder if the unique law could have broader implications.
If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most far-reaching restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.
The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks and before most women know they’re pregnant.
In a statement after the law took effect, President Joe Biden said it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” And he said the law “outrageously” gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”
One thing that makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.
Josh Blackman, a professor of constitutional law at The University of South Texas, says this law is very creative and unique.
“Usually, when the government has an abortion law, the attorney general enforces it. But this law does not allow the government to enforce it. Instead, private citizens can follow lawsuits against abortion clinics, abortion providers and those who fund abortion such as insurance companies,” Blackman said on NewsNation’s “On Balance With Leland Vittert.” “And they’re able to bring these suits in state court against as many providers as they wish. So this is an entirely novel and creative way of trying to restrict access to abortion.”
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Some believe this approach to lawmaking could have unforeseen ramifications in other states and with other controversial issues.
“Imagine California’s next law lets private citizens sue gun stores for whatever violations of the law. That law cannot be stopped in court, every gun will be subject to 1,000 lawsuits,” said Blackman. “So this is a bottomless pit that we sort of start going down. But at least for now, I think it’s had its intended effect and has chilled abortion providers within the state of Texas.”
Drucilla Tigner, a strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says her organization isn’t giving up the fight but acknowledged it is a “scary time” for abortion rights advocates.
‘It’s a scary time to need abortion care. We were hoping that the Supreme Court would uphold fundamental rights and stop this law from going into effect by midnight (Tuesday), but that didn’t happen,” told “On Balance.” “But right now abortion is all but banned in Texas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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