A bill that would prohibit abortions from being performed after a baby’s heartbeat is detected is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Both the state House and Senate passed the Texas Heartbeat Act, which Abbot said he intends to sign.
Current state law permits abortions until 20 weeks of pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
Filed by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, SB8 first passed the Senate on March 30 and was sent to the House the next day. The House voted on the bill, which passed May 6, by a vote of 83 to 64. It then went back to the Senate and passed again on May 13 by a vote of 18-12.
The bill, which passed along party lines, received support from a sole Democrat, Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City.
“The heartbeat is clear and unequivocal evidence of human life,” Rep. Shelby Slawson, R–Stephenville, who filed the companion bill in the House, said. “Many men and women in this chamber have had that incredible experience when we first heard the sound of our then-unborn babies play out in a doctor’s office … that beautiful melody of a tiny life: innocent, vulnerable, and worthy of our protection.
“For far too long, abortion has meant the end of a beating heart,” Slawson added. “But through this, the Texas Heartbeat Act, that beautiful melody of a beating heart will mean the protection of those innocent unborn lives in Texas.”
State Rep. Nicole Collier, D–Fort Worth, who voted against the bill, said, “[There are] so many things that we could be talking about instead of wasting time on something that is unconstitutional. We need to focus on the real issues in front.”
SB 8 is unlike other state heartbeat laws because it permits citizens to sue abortionists, and those who aid them, for civil damages. It allows for private civil right of action against any person who performs an illegal abortion in Texas.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is the strongest Pro-Life bill passed by the Legislature since Roe v. Wade and will save thousands of lives,” Kim Schwartz with Texas Right to Life says.
Several hundred attorneys and doctors practicing in Texas expressed opposition to the bill. They say that it would “create a new unconstitutional restriction on abortion.” The group of doctors said it “will place physicians at risk of frivolous lawsuits that threaten our ability to provide healthcare in Texas.”
More than 53,000 abortions were performed in Texas in 2020, according to the latest available state data.
After Abbott signs the bill into law, it goes into effect Sept. 1, 2021.
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