A bill known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, which prohibits an abortion after a baby’s heartbeat is detected, has passed both the Texas House and Senate and is headed to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott for his signature.
The Texas governor, a Republican, has indicated he will sign it into law.
In Texas, current law allows abortions until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The bill, known as SB8, passed the Senate in Texas on March 30 of this year and went to the House the very next day. As The Austin-American Statesman made clear, once the House received the bill, that chamber voted along party lines—except for one Democrat who voted in favor—“to give early approval to the proposal, after adding amendments.”
State Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville), who sponsored the legislation in the House, added two amendments. “One would prevent a person who impregnated a woman through rape, sexual assault and incest from bringing a lawsuit under the bill. The second would only allow civil lawsuits to be filed for violations of the bill, and not violations of any other state abortion rules and statutes,” The Statesman noted.
The measure went back to the House and the Senate—which approved it. Now the state awaits Gov. Abbott’s action.
Said Slawson of the legislation during House debate, “The heartbeat is clear and unequivocal evidence of human life. 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.”
Slawson also said, “For far too long, abortion has meant the end of a beating heart. 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.”
Nearly all Democratic state lawmakers strongly object to the legislation. Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat from Austin, said the legislation will not prevent abortions from occurring, but instead will push them to potentially dangerous environments.
“We’ve had this discussion way too many times since I’ve been here,” she said recently, in part.
“You guys know that there have always been abortions and there will always be, despite the obstructions that you’re putting in place here, despite the self-righteousness of valuing life over what I value, which I highly resent,” she added. “I also value the lives of the women and families who have to make these decisions.”
Other advocates for abortion rights say the bill “is one of the most extreme abortion restrictions proposed in the state to date,” The Statesman reported.
“The new legislation adds Texas to a group of more than a dozen other states that have passed so-called ‘heartbeat’ bans, all of which have been blocked by federal courts,” said CBS News.
But the Texas Right to Life organization supports the bill.
It said it allows citizens to hold abortion providers “accountable through private lawsuits”—something that has not been tried in any other state, The Texas Tribute noted.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is the strongest pro-life bill passed by the legislature since Roe v. Wade,” said Rebecca Parma, the organization’s senior legislative associate, according to the same outlet.
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—By CNJ Staff