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This is what Texas law prohibits.

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Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, prohibits abortions as soon as “heart activity” can be detected in an embryo. Such activity consists of electrical pulses that can be picked up by ultrasound, but are not yet real heartbeats, because heart valves form later in the process of embryonic development.

Heart activity is detectable about six weeks after conception. Critics say this law amounts to an almost complete ban on abortion, in part because many women do not realize they are pregnant at the time. By the time women miss their periods, they are already about four weeks pregnant, and some women have irregular cycles or don’t track their periods accurately enough to know the exact date their last started.

The law includes an exception, which allows abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the event of a medical emergency. But it makes no exceptions for rape or incest cases.

The practical effect of the law is a sharp drop in the number of legal abortions in Texas, although the September numbers don’t show as sharp a drop as many experts had predicted.

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