July 13 (UPI) -- A group of abortion providers and supporters filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday that aims to block a new Texas law that opens up anyone who unlawfully aids in the practice in the state to legal trouble.
The suit argues that the law, which is scheduled to take effect in September, violates people's right to privacy, equal protection and other freedoms.
The law allows private citizens to sue abortion clinics, doctors and virtually anyone who assists a woman in receiving an abortion in Texas as early as six weeks into pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is often before a woman even knows she's pregnant.
Several states have passed similar six-week bans, but Texas' law is unique in that it relies on private lawsuits to enforce the ban -- which is why it includes language that says those who aid women in receiving an abortion can be sued.
In fact, the law allows virtually anyone in the United States to file a lawsuit against someone who aided an abortion in Texas after the six-week period, for up to $10,000 per defendant.
Plaintiff Whole Woman's Health said the law would create a "nightmarish future" that encourages citizens to "turn on each other."
"This is far and away the most extreme restriction on abortion I've ever seen," said Whole Woman's Health President Amy Hagstrom Miller, according to the Houston Chronicle. "If this law is allowed to stand in Texas, it won't be long before it shows up in other states."
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, at least 85% of abortions performed in Texas are done after six weeks.
Texas Republicans plan to pass a bill this month barring providers from dispensing abortion medications by mail, which advocates say would further limit options for women in rural areas.