While Wednesday’s decision stressed that it wasn’t a ruling on the merits of the law, many pro-lifers have taken the majority’s willingness to let the law stand even temporarily as an encouraging sign. The U.S. Supreme Court formally denied the abortion lobby’s request to block the Texas Heartbeat Act Wednesday evening, voting 5-4 to let the historic law take effect while arguments on the constitutional merits of abortion restrictions work their way through the judicial system. Signed in May by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the Act requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies. The law relies on a unique enforcement mechanism. Instead of having the state prosecute violators, it “exclusively” empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists, punishable by a minimum of $10,000 in statutory relief per abortion plus whatever additional injunctive relief is deemed “sufficient to prevent the defendant from violating this chapter or engaging in acts that aid or abet violations of this chapter.”
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