PORTLAND, Maine — EDITORS NOTE: The above video from our sister station KHOU in Houston, Texas, details the new law.
A Texas law banning most abortions in that state took effect at midnight, and dozens of Mainers took to the streets in Portland to protest the law.
The nation's most far-reaching curb on abortions has taken effect in Texas, with the Supreme Court silent so far on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.
If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.
The Texas law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May and took effect at midnight, would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks before most women even know they're pregnant.
Nicole Clegg, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, spoke out against the law.
"Everyone knows someone or loves someone who has had an abortion or will need an abortion. This draconian law not only bans abortion at six weeks -- before many people even know they are pregnant -- it allows any private citizen to sue someone suspected of providing an abortion or helping someone get an abortion," said Clegg.
What makes the Texas abortion law unique is how it is set to be enforced. The wording of the law says, "any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local government entity in this state, may bring civil action" against anyone who performs an abortion or "aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion." Essentially, that means private citizens, not the state government, are in charge of enforcing the law, according to Caroline Mala Corbin, a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law.
"This is so unusual; I would even say bizarre," Corbin said. "What Texas has done here is forbidden state actors from enforcing the law. And instead is saying only private citizens can enforce the law. And not only private people, but any private person. The language actually says any person can bring a suit under this. That means it doesn't have to be someone connected to the clinic, or the woman seeking to end her pregnancy, doesn't have to be someone in Texas. It can literally be any person."
"The intent is clear: isolate people seeking abortion by targeting their entire support network and discouraging their loved ones from helping them for fear of being sued," said Clegg.
Clegg worries the same thing could happen here.
"We saw the same the same thing happen here in Maine where there were six pieces of legislation introduced, all designed around shaming and judging people and really making (abortion) inaccessible," said Clegg. "Thankfully our Legislature defeated them this time, but elections matter. Next time, we could have a very different outcome."