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Texas abortion law: Implications for women’s health and safety

In Texas, as of September 1, a controversial abortion bill that Governor Greg Abbott signed into law in May has become effective, following the Supreme Court’s decision not to block it.

The new law, also known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), effectively bans abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. This is calculated as starting from the date of a person’s last menstrual cycle, when, the bill alleges, the “fetal heartbeat” is most often detectable.

Since the Supreme Court announced its decision, the new law has come under strong public scrutiny, with many experts and public figures pointing out that what legally counts as “6 weeks of pregnancy” is too soon for most people to even realize that they are pregnant.

Most other states that allow abortions have set the cut-off point at 20 or 24 weeks of pregnancy, when most fetuses are considered viable — that is, likely to survive.

The fetal heartbeat allegedly detectable in the early weeks of pregnancy, according to SB8, “has become a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth.” Yet many experts contest the idea that a heartbeat is possible in a fetus at this stage.

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