Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Heartbeat Bill Into Law

Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Heartbeat Bill Into Law

Isabel Webb Carey
Isabel Webb Carey
|
May 20, 2021

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Wednesday a measure that would ban abortion procedures as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The legislation is one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion measures and adds Texas to a growing list of states with conservative leaders that have passed increasingly restrictive abortion laws as part of an effort to challenge Roe v. Wade.

The limit introduced by the legislation amounts to an outright ban on abortion, as many women are unaware they are pregnant at the six week gestation mark—two weeks after a missed period. The law contains an exception for medical emergencies, but no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. It also would allow any private citizen to sue doctors or abortion clinic employees who would perform or help arrange for the procedure. The law takes effect in September.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said in signing the bill. “The heartbeat bill is now law in the Lone Star State.”

Eight pieces of similar legislation have passed in other states. All, however, have been blocked by court challenges based on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established the right to an abortion in America. Yet state republican Sen. Bryan Hughes, the lead author of SB 8, said unique legal language in the bill makes him confident that it will be upheld. The legislation includes a provision that empowers private citizens to sue abortion providers, regardless of whether or not those citizens are connected to a patient and inhibits legal action by abortion-rights groups.

The Texas law also arrives at a pivotal point for reproductive rights following the announcement made by the Supreme Court that it would consider the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. The Mississippi case could provide an opportunity to strike down the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and will be the first abortion case heard by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic conservative who then-President Trump nominated in 2020. Anti-abortion activists are hopeful that the new 6-3 conservative majority will bring the issue of abortion legality back to the state-level and permit total bans of abortion in states such as Texas.

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Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey

Isabel Webb Carey attends the University of Texas at Austin in the Plan II Honors Program with a certificate in Core Texts and Ideas. Her interests include education, local governance, sustainability, and equity. Isabel enjoys dancing, hiking, and live music. She is also a staff writer for the Texas Orator. Email her at isabelwebbcarey@gmail.com
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