Texas ‘heartbeat bill’ has novel approach to banning most abortions

A bill that would ban most abortions in Texas by outlawing them once…

Texas 'heartbeat bill' has novel approach to banning most abortions 1

Texas 'heartbeat bill' has novel approach to banning most abortions 2

Texas 'heartbeat bill' has novel approach to banning most abortions 3

Austin, Texas – A bill that would effectively ban most abortions in Texas by outlawing the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected received final approval from state lawmakers on Thursday and is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. He has said he will sign it into law.

The proposal is a priority for Republican lawmakers, and it sailed to passage despite intense opposition from many Democrats. It is widely considered among the most restrictive abortion measures ever proposed in Texas.

“The Texas Legislature PASSES the heartbeat bill,” Abbott wrote Thursday on Twitter. “It’s now on its way to my desk for signing.”

Judges have blocked similar laws adopted in other states, but the Texas proposal differs from those efforts in the enforcement mechanism included in the bill.

Instead of requiring public officials to enforce the ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – which can happen as early as six weeks gestation, before most women know they are pregnant – the bill allows any private citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone else who “aids or abets” an abortion that violates the ban.

After the Senate approved the bill, the House made changes to it to address concerns raised by more than 400 lawyers in an April letter to House members. The letter called the measure “exceptionally broad” and said it could allow people to sue abortion providers over perceived violations of any rules or requirements governing the procedure.

Legislators approved an amendment that would limit the new civil action created in the bill to violations of the so-called heartbeat ban. They also adopted an amendment to prevent a person who impregnated a woman through rape, sexual assault or incest from bringing a lawsuit under the bill.

“The concern was that it was much broader than just the heartbeat bill,” said GOP Sen. Bryan Hughes, sponsor of the bill. “These amendments are consistent with the will of the Senate we expressed when we passed the bill.”

Hughes and 17 other senators voted to accept the changes to the proposal while 12 senators, all Democrats, voted against it. The bill now heads to Abbott for his signature.

Abortion opponents have pushed an aggressive agenda this legislation session to severely limit availability of the procedure, with an eye to the changing power dynamics at the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority.

Planned Parenthood Votes, the political arm of the organization, tweeted a news article about Thursday’s Senate action and added: “Know this: Abortion is still legal in ALL 50 STATES. And we intend to keep it that way.”

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, also criticized Texas lawmakers for their action.

“Instead of focusing on delivering Texans much-needed relief following the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented power outages, Republicans in the Texas Legislature have pushed extreme bills to ban abortion and incentivize people to sue health care providers and anyone else who assists a pregnant person seeking abortion care,” Hogue said in a statement. “There’s no low these legislators won’t sink to in their efforts to gut Roe v. Wade and push abortion care as far out of reach as possible – regardless of the damage inflicted on the lives, health, and well-being of Texas women and families.”


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