President Joe Biden on Wednesday said his administration is “deeply committed” to upholding legal abortion, after Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law went into effect.

“My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right,” Biden, a Catholic, said of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. 

​​The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court did not act on a last-minute petition to block the law.

The law requires doctors to search for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected – which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy – then abortions are prohibited under the law, except in medical emergencies. The law is enforced through private lawsuits, and not by the state government.

Private citizens can initiate lawsuits for illegal abortions against anyone performing an illegal abortion, or anyone assisting in an illegal abortion including through payments or reimbursements. Lawsuits can also be brought against anyone who “intends to engage” in performing or assisting an illegal abortion.

“The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes,” Biden stated on Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris also issued a statement later on Wednesday afternoon, calling the law an "all-out assault on reproductive health."

"The Biden-Harris Administration will always fight to protect access to healthcare and defend a woman's right to make decisions about her body and determine her future," Harris stated.

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law,” and says that civil laws must protect human life from “the moment of conception.”

Paragraph 2273 of the catechism states, "The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. 

Other Catholic members of Congress criticized Texas’ law and supported legal abortion, in statements issued on Wednesday. 

“Now Roe is upended. But we’re not going anywhere. This is a fight for our lives,” stated Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in a tweet.

“If the Supreme Court won’t protect #RoeVWade, Congress must,” stated Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.). “Abolish the filibuster and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act so we can ensure reproductive rights for all women.” 

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) stated, “You have the right to a safe, legal abortion. This is the beginning of the fight—not the end.”

In response to Biden’s defense of legal abortion, the group CatholicVote stated that “Protecting innocent unborn human life is foundational to building a civilization of love.”

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“For this reason, it is also beyond shameful to see a Catholic President of the United States attack this effort to protect children and mothers in Texas,” the group stated. “Catholics are called to defend the weakest and most vulnerable. Once again President Biden betrays his faith.”

This article was updated on Sept. 1 with additional quotes.