Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is committed to signing the heartbeat bill once it reaches his desk.
On Thursday, the pro-life bill passed the state legislature after an 18-12 vote in the Texas Senate. Once signed into law, the Texas Heartbeat Act will abolish elective abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy by prohibiting abortions once the unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. The legislation is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1.
In an interview Thursday with KXXV 25 News, Abbott said he supports the bill because he wants to make life better for every person in Texas, including children in the womb.
“We’re addressing every issue in the entire state that will make lives better for everybody, including innocent, unborn children,” the governor said. “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.”
Pro-abortion groups likely will challenge the Texas Heartbeat Act in court, but they are particularly worried about a unique section of the legislation.
According to CBS Austin, the bill gives “people the right to sue or file civil litigation against physicians who perform” abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. Exceptions in the bill prohibit perpetrators of rape and incest from filing lawsuits.
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Pro-life leaders believe the private lawsuit provision, which is similar to language in the Sanctuary for the Unborn ordinances that are passing at the city level, is more likely to withstand a legal challenge and save babies’ lives.
The pro-abortion blog Jezebel reports more about abortion activists’ worries:
The Center for Reproductive Rights’s chief counsel for state policy Elisabeth Smith told Jezebel reporter Esther Wang that “this private right of action… would allow harassment and intimidation of providers, people who work in clinics, family members, and friends.”
Abortion rights advocates worry that the passage of this legislation in Texas will have implications for abortion rights battles across the country, as the anti-abortion movement in the state has historically been influential in introducing abortion restrictions that get picked up in other states.
Pro-life leaders celebrated after the bill passed the state Senate on Thursday. Texas Right to Life senior legislative associate Rebecca Parma told LifeNews.com she was delighted by the vote.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is the strongest pro-life bill passed by the Legislature since Roe v. Wade and will save thousands of lives. This is a historic day and now is the time to build on our momentum. State lawmakers must use the remaining weeks of session to pass additional life-saving legislation like the Texas Abolition Strategy and the Respecting Texas Patients’ Right to Life Act,” she said.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is novel in approach, allowing for citizens to hold abortionists accountable through private lawsuits. No heartbeat law passed by another state has taken this strategy. Additionally, the bill does not punish women who obtain abortions,” Parma added.
Sponsored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill would require abortionists to check for an unborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibit the abortion if it is detected. It would create criminal penalties for abortionists who violate the measure and allow civil lawsuits by private individuals.
“This bill says for the little baby inside her mother’s womb, if there is a heartbeat detected, that little baby will be protected,” Hughes said.
A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but all have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups. States with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. South Carolina also passed a heartbeat law in February.
Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.
Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.
In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.