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What does the new Texas abortion law do?

The state will not enforce its new anti-abortion bill. Instead, the law enables private citizens to sue.

TEXAS, USA — The so-called “Texas Heartbeat Act,” technically known as Senate Bill 8, is now law in Texas.

It requires any physician planning to perform an abortion to determine whether the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat. Then the new law says “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child.”

RELATED: President Biden slams new Texas abortion ban as 'blatant violation' of constitutional rights

The law’s opponents argue that happens so early in a pregnancy -- around five or six weeks -- that most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.

There is an exception for medical emergencies. It’s up to the physician to determine what qualifies.

What’s different about this abortion law compared to others Texas lawmakers passed or tried to pass before is that the state will not enforce it. 

RELATED: Reproductive rights groups prepare for 'the worst,' as Texas 'heartbeat' law poised to take effect Wednesday

Instead, private citizens can sue anyone who performs an abortion or anyone who helps someone get an abortion. In their lawsuit, the private citizens can be awarded injunctive relief (to prevent the defendant from breaking the law again) and statutory damages (basically a no-less-than $10,000 payout for each abortion connected to the defendant), as well as costs and attorney’s fees.

That lawsuit must be filed within four years of the abortion.

RELATED: Texas 'heartbeat bill': 6-week abortion ban takes effect as Supreme Court stays silent

Though a physician, the woman seeking an abortion and anyone who helps her can be sued, if the patient was impregnated through an act of rape, assault or incest, the law says the person who impregnated her cannot be sued.

What are the legal ramifications of the new abortion law?

KHOU 11 legal analyst Carmen Roe weighed in on the legality of the new law.

"This is definitely a law that's in opposition to most if not all U.S. Supreme Court precedent on the books, including Roe v. Wade because it effectively denies a woman the right to an abortion in Texas, so that's something we're very concerned with and as we move forward, we expect to see changes and enhancements to this law," she said.

You can watch our full interview with her below. 

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick - longtime pro-life advocate -- spoke to KHOU 11 live Wednesday

"Once there's a heartbeat, no one can argue that it's not a human being. This bill simply says if a doctor performs an abortion, once he detects a heartbeat, that any citizen in the state of Texas can sue him."


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