The Commonwealth Fund  |  October 25, 2021

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The litigation around an unprecedented Texas law, Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), continues. Despite well-established Supreme Court precedent that prohibits states from banning abortions before fetal viability, S.B. 8 prohibits an abortion if a “fetal heartbeat” is present, at about six weeks. The law is not enforced by the state, but rather allows anyone to sue an individual who performs or knowingly “aids and abets” an abortion (e.g., medical providers, family members, friends) after a so-called heartbeat is detected. There are severe consequences: an injunction, a minimum of $10,000 in damages, and attorney’s fees. The law has had a chilling effect, effectively shutting down all abortions in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy.

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