Texas Heartbeat Bill: A New Chapter For Abortion Bans

On May 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Senate Bill 8 version of the heartbeat bill as law. It will be taken into effect on September 1, becoming one of the nation’s strictest abortion measures.

The Texas heartbeat bill makes abortions illegal as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, banning procedures as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill makes an exception for “if a physician believes a medical emergency exists.” However, no exceptions are provided for rape and incest, citing that “public and private agencies provide … emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest.”

Furthermore, the Texas heartbeat bill is distinct from other heartbeat bills, as it includes a provision opening anyone who aided in accessing an abortion that violates the heartbeat bill to legal liability. Those who provide abortions after the detection of fetal heartbeats are suspect to civil charges. Even those who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise,” after the detection of a fetal heartbeat are suspect to charges, as well.

There continues to be a debate on the basic constitutionality of heartbeat bills. Here’s why. Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that states must allow abortion until the point of viability, which occurs between 24 and 28 weeks into pregnancy, meaning that even after a fetal heartbeat is detected, abortion should be allowed as long as it is before the occurrence of the point of viability. Therefore, critics of heartbeat bills have said that heartbeat bills “blatantly contradict” this decision. In fact, with this point, the 2013 North Dakota heartbeat bill was ruled in District Court to be “clearly invalid and unconstitutional based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade.” On the other hand, proponents of heartbeat bills claim that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision should be re-examined, due to advancements in law and science.

Regarding the Texas heartbeat bill, Governor Greg Abbott stated, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” He said the Legislature “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that (he’s) about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.” He tweeted the following:

While some have shown approval of the Texas heartbeat bill stating that this bill will “protect the pre-born from the harm of abortion and protect women from the heartbreak it causes them”, the Texas heartbeat bill has faced much backlash. Hundreds protested the heartbeat bill at the Texas Capitol with signs that said statements including, “MY BODY, MY CHOICE”, “Bans don’t stop abortions, it makes them dangerous,” “Protect safe, legal abortion,” “You’re pro-life until you have to wear a mask,” and “Abortion is healthcare.” Paxton Smith, the 2021 valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School, delivered a speech about her feelings on the heartbeat bill, which is embedded below. Please do watch it.

The Texas heartbeat bill is not going into effect in a country far away from Frisco for us to look the other way and remain uneducated on it. It is going into effect right here in Texas, so we must become aware of it. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!

(Keep in mind that we shouldn’t turn our heads if a bill similar to the Texas heartbeat bill is going into effect in another country.)