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A new law that bans 85 per cent of abortions in Texas is drawing comparisons to the dystopian Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale.
The abortion bill, dubbed SB8, is one of the most restrictive in the US and came into effect at midnight on Wednesday 1st September.
It outlaws abortions when an ultrasound can detect a foetal heartbeat; the heart of an embryo starts to beat from around five to six weeks into pregnancy, and can be detectable through a vaginal ultrasound.
Although supporters refer to it as the “foetal heartbeat” bill, medical experts have called this term misleading. While embryos do have cardiac activity during this early stage of development, they do not have functional hearts.
The bill also bans abortions in cases where the woman was impregnated as a result of rape or incest however there are exceptions for medical emergencies.
SB8 could affect at least 85 per cent of the abortions taking place in Texas, providers and abortion rights advocacy groups warn, as any women don’t know they’re pregnant within the first six weeks.
As the law came into effect on Wednesday morning, women and men have taken to social media to criticise the bill by comparing it to the totalitarian regime in The Handmaid’s Tale.
The acclaimed series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, explores the lives of women known as handmaids who are confined to household roles and used as baby-making machines, with no control over their own bodies.
One woman said: “I usually hate the Handmaid’s Tale comparisons, but at midnight tonight, individual Texans can rat out (and sue) people who do as much as drive someone to get an abortion—that feels adequately like Gilead. People will die because of this law. Dark times.”
Another Twitter user shared: “Today my heart goes out to women in Texas, who have awakened in a very real version of The Handmaid's Tale. Abortion care is health care.”
While a third person shared: “The Handmaid's Tale is supposed to be FICTION, but Texas obviously wants to be like Gilead.”
Following the supreme court ruling in the Roe V. Wade trial in 1973, it became a constitutional right for women across the United States to have legal abortions up to the point when a fetus can survive outside the womb. This is usually around 24 weeks.
The Roe v. Wade battle began in the state of Texas which outlawed any type of abortion unless a medical doctor determined the woman’s life was in danger.
In 1970, Texas resident Norma McCorvey filed a lawsuit under the alias Jane Roe against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade because she wanted a doctor to safely terminate her pregnancy.
She unable to get a legal abortion in Texas because her life was not in danger and she could not travel outside Texas to get an abortion. The child was eventually adopted.
The SB8 bill targets abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman access an abortion past roughly six weeks gestation.
It also allows private citizens to sue those who “aid and abet” women who seek to act constitutional right to get an abortion, including medical professionals, abortion providers and even family members.
People who sue could be awarded at least $10,000 (£7,271.54) and have the cost for their attorney’s fees covered if they won. There is no monetary relief for defendants.