The law, known as the “Texas Heartbeat Act,” prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – when many women are not yet aware that they are pregnant. It is set to go into effect Wednesday after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals canceled a hearing that had been scheduled for Monday during which abortion providers planned to argue against it.
“Nearly fifty years ago, this Court held that Texas could not ban abortion prior to viability,” plaintiff organizations led by Whole Women’s Health said in a Monday court filing. “Yet, absent intervention from this Court, in less than two days, on Wednesday, September 1, Texas will do precisely that.”
The Heartbeat Act, which was signed into law on May 19. does not criminalize abortion, but any individual other than government employees may bring a civil claim against an alleged violator. If that person wins, the law calls for the court to award them a minimum of $10,000 per abortion.
“At bottom, the question in this case is whether—by outsourcing to private individuals the authority to enforce an unconstitutional prohibition—Texas can adopt a law that allows it to “’do precisely that which the [Constitution] forbids,’” Monday’s filing said. “The answer to that question must be no.”
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction that would block the law from taking effect pending the outcome of the case. They claim that allowing the law to be enforced would ban most abortions in Texas and force women seeking abortions to travel to another state, “end their pregnancies without medical supervision,” or alternatively they would have to keep their pregnancies.
The application for an injunction was sent to Justice Samuel Alito, who is assigned to the Fifth Circuit. He has the option to rule on it himself or refer it to the full Supreme Court.
Later this year, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that challenges a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks.
Fox News’ Shannon Bream and Bill Mears contributed to this report.