The “Heartbeat" Act protects the unborn from the sixth week of pregnancy. Pro-life groups believe the country is on the verge of a paradigm shift.
The state of Texas has passed the most restrictive abortion Bill in the United States, a rule that bans abortion if a foetal heartbeat is detected, which usually occurs six weeks into the pregnancy.
Abortion clinics, which asked the Supreme Court to block the so called “Heartbeat" Act (SB 8), said it prohibits 85% of abortions in Texas.
Pro-life groups have welcomed the law as a precursor to a legal breakthrough that could spread to other states in protecting the unborn.
However, the legal battle will continue in the coming weeks. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order requested by Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, to avoid being sued for the time being for performing abortions outside the time limits allowed by the law.
The clinics that provide abortions have said they will comply with the law as long as it is in force, but expect the courts to eventually block it.
Abortion groups have started demonstrations in Texas against the law.
The law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott, requires doctors to perform a test to detect a foetal heartbeat. If it is detected, the doctor is banned from performing the abortion. It allows exceptions for medical emergencies, but does make exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
It also states that “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity, may bring a civil action against any person who performs or induces an abortion or who knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion”.
Those who sue and win their case will be compensated with at least $10,000 for each illegal abortion.
“Texas has compelling interests from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child”, says the law.
Statistics show that there are around 3,000 abortions a day in the United States.
Abortion was legalised in the United States following the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. Recently, the state of Mississippi asked the Court to re-examine the case, arguing that each state should be able to decide whether to regulate abortion.
The conservative majority of the justices on the Supreme Court could lead to a change in the interpretation of the case.
Abby Johnson, a former abortion clinic manager and one of today's strongest voices in defence of the unborn, stressed that “there are almost four times as many pregnancy centres as abortion clinics in the United States. Abortion clinics are closing year after year. The culture is changing. The mentality of young people is changing”.