Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has signed a bill banning abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected.
The Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas heartbeat bill, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually at around six weeks. It takes effect in September.
“Millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said Wednesday during the bill signing ceremony. “In Texas, we work to save those lives.”
“We’re addressing every issue in the entire state that will make lives better for everybody, including innocent, unborn children,” the governor continued. “What this bill seeks to do is once a heartbeat is detected in a mother’s womb, at that time it would be inappropriate to take the life of that baby. Texas has taken a position that innocent life is so important.”
“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, adding that the Legislature “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
A provision in the bill would also allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or doctors if they perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
“It’s a very unique law and it’s a very clever law,” said constitutional law professor Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law Houston.
“Planned Parenthood can’t go to court and sue Attorney General [Ken] Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute. They have to basically sit and wait to be sued.”
Abortion-rights groups are vowing to stop it. “The governor’s swipe of a pen can’t change the Constitution,” the ACLU of Texas tweeted on Wednesday, calling the measure the most extreme abortion legislation enacted in Texas.
Around a dozen other states have enacted fetal-heartbeat abortion restrictions. Courts have consistently found the measures to be unconstitutional and blocked states from enforcing them.
Conservative statehouses have escalated efforts to outlaw abortion as the constitutionally protected right to an abortion is being revisited. The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortions after about 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Starting with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. That precedent and other rulings since have effectively barred states from restricting abortions before the point at which the fetus has reached the stage of viability—at around 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy—when capable of surviving outside the womb.
In taking up the Mississippi case, the Supreme Court said it would re-examine the question of whether bans on pre-viability, elective abortions are unconstitutional. With conservatives now holding six of the court’s nine seats, the case has the potential to rewrite a long-held precedent and make laws such as the statute Texas just enacted far less vulnerable to court challenge.
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