Texas Law Banning Most Abortions After Six Weeks of Pregnancy Goes Into Effect

A demonstrator holds up an abortion flag outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear a major abortion case on the legality of a Republican-backed Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on abortion doctors, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

A Texas law prohibiting most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday after the Supreme Court did not act on a request to block it, ushering in the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation and prompting clinics in the state to turn away women seeking the procedure.

The justices may still rule on the request, which is an early step in what is expected to be an extended legal battle. In the meantime, though, access to abortion in Texas has become extremely limited, the latest example of a Republican-led state imposing new constraints on ending pregnancies.

The law, known as Senate Bill 8, amounts to a nearly complete ban on abortion in Texas because 85 to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy, according to lawyers for several clinics. On Tuesday night, clinics were scrambling to see patients until the minute the law went into effect, with six-hour waits for procedures in some places. By Wednesday, the patient lists had shrunk, clinic workers said in interviews.

The developments were a victory for the anti-abortion movement, which has found success in recent years. Many who oppose abortion said they were cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court might allow the law to stand for now and were awaiting word from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who oversees the federal appeals court in question.

“We’re not fully celebrating until we officially hear from Alito,” said John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, the largest anti-abortion organization in the state. “The motion is still pending. He has to do something with it. He can’t just ignore it.”

He added: “But in the meantime, it seems like the industry is going to comply and that’s definitely a victory for us.”

The Texas law is the latest battle over abortion rights in the United States, a legal fight that began in 1973, with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to the procedure. But in recent years, anti-abortion advocates have found success through laws in state legislatures, and a broad swath of the South and the Midwest now has limited access to abortions.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, J. David Goodman, Adam Liptak and Sabrina Tavernise