Providers in Texas are facing serious financial strain as a result of the law formerly known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—typically at about six weeks, a time before which most people would even know that they’re pregnant, notes NPR.
Though temporarily blocked this week by a federal judge as part of a larger suit launched by the Biden administration, per The Texas Tribune, the law, which went into effect in early September, was temporarily reinstated by a federal appeals court judge late on Friday. This means that abortion is once again essentially outlawed, forcing any pregnant Texan in need of the procedure to travel outside the state in order to receive it, The New York Times reports.
This kind of back and forth will likely continue with the law for the foreseeable future, barring any decisive action from the Supreme Court. Abortion providers did ask the Supreme Court to issue an emergency ruling back when the law was about to go into effect, NPR notes, but the justices declined.
“The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness,” Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement to the Times. “It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas.”
Given the unique nature of the law—which relies on ordinary citizens to enforce it rather than state authorities, encouraging them to sue people suspected of having “aided or abetted” an abortion with rewards of at least $10,000—providers in the state are extremely wary of violating it.
“These folks don’t have attorneys or funds to hire attorneys,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and founder of Whole Women’s Health, told NPR. “Many of our physicians have opted out of providing care while SB 8 is in effect—it being just too risky for them to do so.”
Even the idea that SB 8 might eventually be overturned offers little hope to Hagstrom Miller. In only a few months, the law has put abortion clinics under immense financial strain, which could eventually force some of them to close their doors.
“If clinics close because SB 8 is enforced long enough,” she told NPR, “the damage will be done, even if it’s eventually struck down.”