S.B. 8 effectively bans abortion at six weeks, a time at which many people don’t yet realize they’re pregnant. The bill is more extreme than other laws in states like Alabama and Ohio due to a clause that financially incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone “aiding or abetting” abortion-seeking patients in Texas.
If someone successfully sues a person aiding and abetting the medical procedure, they could receive a bounty of $10,000 and have all of their legal fees paid for by the opposing side.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 8 into law on May 19, despite fierce opposition from abortion rights advocates. Pro-choice groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court in July, hoping to stall the bill.
After the district court and then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit shut down their attempts to block the law while the lawsuit proceeds, the groups filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court took no action, however, making the bill law as of 12 a.m. local time.
Texas’ ban on abortion at six weeks will force the state’s 7 million women of reproductive age to travel to neighboring states like Louisiana and Oklahoma for the procedure. Those states have a total of only eight abortion clinics. The one-way driving distance for a Texan seeking an abortion would increase from 12 miles to 248 miles, 20 times the distance, according to the Guttmacher Institute. And, as with most anti-abortion legislation, it will disproportionately affect Black and brown women.
As more and more states effectively ban abortion, pro-choice advocates fear the return of back-alley abortions. But what some advocates are more focused on is the criminalization of the medical procedure and how it can isolate women, said Kristin Ford, the acting vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“I often say, ‘Think about handcuffs rather than hemorrhaging,’” Ford told HuffPost in a conversation last week. “It’s not so much that people will have back-alley abortions and be bleeding out in the way that you hear horror stories pre-Roe, but that people will be interrogated by law enforcement, could be arrested and criminalized for the outcome of their pregnancies. When you criminalize everyone around the pregnant person, you’re creating an environment of criminalization, of stigmatizing and isolating.”
Many abortion rights advocates are worried that Texas’ S.B. 8 will quickly become a blueprint for other red states looking to end legal abortion.
“Texas is a state that has passed restriction after restriction, and this is a time where other states may be looking to Texas for a new twist on abortion bans. Stopping this ban is even more important because we’re no longer just talking about the 7 million women of reproductive age in Texas,” Elizabeth Nash, a principal policy associate at Guttmacher Institute, told HuffPost last week. “At that point, the question really is … What is left of Roe?”