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Do Americans support new Texas abortion law? What poll finds as first lawsuits filed

Bailey Aldridge, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Political News

Most Americans in a new poll disapprove of Texas' abortion law ahead of the first lawsuits filed to challenge it.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday found majorities of respondents disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to allow the law to take effect and with key provisions of the law. The law, called Senate Bill 8, bans abortions after as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, which is before many women know they are pregnant. The law makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The law is not enforced by the government. Instead, it allows private citizens to file lawsuits against abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion outside that time limit. Those who file lawsuits and win are eligible to receive $10,000.

The poll, which was conducted Sept. 9-13, was released the same day that two lawsuits were filed against a Texas doctor who said he performed an abortion in violation of the new law. The suits are believed to be the first filed under the new law and seek to challenge its legality.

The poll included 802 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The Monmouth University poll found that 54% of respondents disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court's Sept. 1 vote to allow the law to take effect while it was facing challenges in lower courts. Meanwhile, 39% said they agree with decision, and 6% said they don't know.

Opinions on the decision largely broke down along party lines. Seventy-three percent of Democrats surveyed said they disagree with the decision while 31% of Republicans said the same. An additional 22% of Democrats said they agree with the decision, while 62% of Republicans said the same.

The poll found stronger majorities disapprove of how the law is enforced.

Seventy percent said they disapprove of "having private citizens use lawsuits to enforce this law instead of having government prosecutors handle these cases," while 22% said they approve. Eighty-one percent said they disapprove of "giving $10,000 to private citizens who successfully file abortion lawsuits," while 14% approve.

Overall, the poll found a majority of respondents think abortion should be legal, including 33% who said it should be "always legal" and 29% who said it should be legal with "some limitations." An additional 24% said it should be "illegal with exceptions," and 11% said it should be "always illegal."

On Monday, two former attorneys filed lawsuits against a Texas doctor, Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post that he had violated the state's new law.

"I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care," Braid wrote in the op-ed. "I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn't get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested."

 

Nancy Northup — president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization representing Braid — told CNN that Braid was called to challenge the law's legality because it's "creating havoc on reproductive health care in Texas" and providing his patients alternatives to abortion that are "untenable."

The two lawsuits against Braid were filed separately by Oscar Stilley of Arkansas and Felipe Gomez of Illinois. Neither opposes abortion rights but have instead said they want to provide a chance for the courts to weigh in on the constitutionality of the law, according to The Associated Press.

John Seago, head of Texas Right to Life, emphasized in a statement to CNN that neither suit was filed "from the pro-life movement" and called the suits "self-serving legal stunts."

Legal experts told the AP that Braid's case represents another test of the law following the Supreme Court's vote.

"Being sued puts him in a position ... that he will be able to defend the action against him by saying the law is unconstitutional," Carol Sanger, a law professor at Columbia University in New York City, told the outlet.

Texas' law, which took effect this month, bans abortions after a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

"No freedom is more precious than life itself," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted after signing the bill into law. "Starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion."

But medical experts have said term "fetal heartbeat" is misleading, NPR reports. They said the term actually refers to a sound made by an ultrasound machine that's triggered by a group of cells "initiating some electrical activity," not an actual heartbeat.

"When I use a stethoscope to listen to an (adult) patient's heart, the sound that I'm hearing is caused by the opening and closing of the cardiac valves," Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB-GYN who specializes in abortion care and works at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, according to NPR. "At six weeks of gestation, those valves don't exist."

Texas' abortion law is the most restrictive in the country, The New York Times reports. While other states have attempted to pass similar laws, they have faced legal challenges. It also took effect despite the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark Supreme Court decision that said women have the right to choose to have an abortion.

President Joe Biden has said the Texas law violates the Constitution and promised to protect and defend the right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade.

(c)2021 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.