Texas Gov. Greg Abbott indicated he will sign a bill that would ban abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
The bill was approved by Texas lawmakers on Thursday. According to The Texas Tribune, it bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill’s backers have said that can be as early as six weeks.
Abbott tweeted on Thursday: "The Texas legislature PASSES the heartbeat bill. It’s now on its way to my desk for signing."
The bill provides for an exception in the case of medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
The Tribune noted the bill would be enforced by private citizens empowered to sue abortion providers and others who help someone get an abortion after six weeks, including by driving them to an abortion clinic.
Public officials would not be enforcing the bill. And backers hope it will stop abortion rights advocates from suing the state to prevent the law from taking effect.
"The Texas Heartbeat Act is the strongest Pro-Life bill passed by the Legislature since Roe v. Wade," said Rebecca Parma, the senior legislative associate for the Texas Right to Life organization, which supported the bill.
And The Daily Beast said the Texas Right to Life noted the bill would "further bolster the ultimate goal of ending all elective abortion."
"After the battle leaves the Texas Capitol, the next stop is the courthouse," the group said.
The Daily Caller reported the bill was criticized by some lawmakers.
Democrat state Rep. Donna Howard called it a "violation of constitutional rights to abortion."
In a tweet, she noted: "If you drop your sister off at a healthcare clinic – where she has an abortion – you could be sued, against, by anyone in the US. If you process the insurance paperwork for an abortion, you could be sued.
And in another tweet, she said: "This bill opens the door to frivolous lawsuits that will paralyze our medical system and flood our courts.
Amy Hagstrom-Miller, CEO of Texas-based abortion clinic Whole Woman’s Health, told The Daily Beast: "It’s unprecedented, there's no question. The idea that just anybody should be able to police a highly trained physician and their staff—that any Joe on the street can make that claim—is just totally shocking."
Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law, said the abortion measure is the continuation of a 1990s-era strategy to "sue abortion providers out of existence."
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