A Texas law that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected took effect Wednesday morning, after the Supreme Court declined to act on an emergency appeal from providers hoping to stop its implementation.
The law, called the Texas Heartbeat Act or S.B. 8, prohibits abortions as early as six weeks. Pro-choice forces fighting the new law waited on word from the Court, but a midnight deadline came and went without any order. The justices could still act on the appeal at any time.
While its long-term prospects are uncertain, successful implementation of a heartbeat law in the nation’s second most populous state is a potentially historic victory for the pro-life movement. Abortion providers and their allies interpreted the Court’s inaction ominously, with an eye toward a direct attack on Roe v. Wade the justices will hear later this year. Even if the Court ultimately sides with the providers, they were alarmed the justices would countenance even temporary implementation of a near total ban on abortions.
In an emergency application filed with the justices on Monday, Texas abortion providers warned that abortion access in the state could practically end absent judicial intervention. They asked the Supreme Court to block the law outright or allow them to make their case to a lower court.