Abbott said the bill does not coerce rape victims to have children because it provides around a six-week window in which to have an abortion or to take a morning after pill. He also stressed the need to get rapists off the streets of Texas.
“Let’s be clear: Rape is a crime,” Abbott said at a press conference on Tuesday. “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
The new law, Senate Bill 8, outlaws abortions after a fetal heart is detected, which is regularly at about six weeks after conception. The legislation allows people to sue abortion clinics and those who help others get abortions, allowing private citizens to get up to $10,000 for reporting abortions transpiring after the six-week mark. Abbott signed the bill into law in May.
SB 8 also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion. Some critics say this would really put a bounty on people’s heads and encourage frivolous lawsuits. Citizens can be sued for $10,000 or more if an abortion is performed outside of the six-week period.
SB 8 has been widely denounced nationally, with President Joe Biden calling it “unconstitutional chaos,” and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland vowing the U.S. Department of Justice would protect those seeking abortions while it essentially works to protect access to abortion.
Critics of the law have criticized the Supreme Court's refusal to intervene, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden saying they will try to fight the state law at the federal level. On Thursday, the Department of Justice signaled it will increase legal challenges to the law through enforcement of a 27-year-old law that prevents physical obstruction of those seeking abortions or reproductive healthcare services.
Private companies have also come out against the law. Uber and Lyft vowed to supplement legal fees for drivers sued for moving women to abortion clinics, and dating apps such as Bumble and Tinder have promised to help to fundraising efforts to get Texans to access abortion services out of state.
Two in 5 Texas women have been sexually attacked, and 6.3 million Texans have endured sexual assault, according to Denton County Friends of the Family, a shelter for those affected by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.