The law went into effect on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court failed to act on an emergency appeal that had sought to put it on hold.
The law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks and before most people know they’re pregnant.
If allowed to remain in force, the law would be the most far-reaching 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.
In the meantime, Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told The Associated Press that “as of now, most abortion is banned in Texas”.
Many on social media have compared the situation in Texas to that in Gilead, the authoritarian republic in Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian classic. In the novel (as well as its TV adaptation), reproductive rights are non-existent, and women who are forced to serve as Handmaids are made to birth children without a choice.
“Texas is the new Gilead,” one person tweeted on Thursday.
“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,” someone else wrote. “People will die because of this law. Dark times.”
“The end of Roe v Wade will be the beginning of The Handmaid's Tale,” another person shared.
President Joe Biden said in a statement the Texas law “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century” and that it “outrageously” gives private citizens the power “to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”
Hearron said the abortion providers his group represents were still hoping to hear from the Supreme Court.
They have said the law would rule out 85 per cent of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close. Planned Parenthood is among the abortion providers that have stopped scheduling abortions beyond six weeks from conception.
Abortion rights advocates say the Texas law will force many people to travel out of state for abortions, if they can afford to do so and also navigate issues including childcare and taking time off work. It is also expected to increase the number of people seeking to self-induce abortions using pills obtained by mail.
The Associated Press contributed to this story