Texas passes most restrictive abortion law yet

National News


Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair

Saddler Emory, Staff Writer

 The abortion law deemed “The Heartbeat Bill” has made its way around several states; many of these states are located in the “Bible Belt.” 

The “Heartbeat Bill” in itself is already one of the most conservative laws put into place to restrict a woman’s right to choose. Before this bill came to Texas, it restricted abortions to the second trimester, which is 14 to 26 weeks of pregnancy. As of June 2021, none of the states that have this law are actually in effect because of blocking by state courts except for Texas. 

On Sept. 1, Texas’s new law on banning abortions after six weeks was put into place. The following day, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 majority to constitutionalize this bill. 

The Supreme Court approved this law with the revisions Texas made before proposing it. Instead of using government money to find women, doctors, or anyone else involved in the medical procedure and charge them, the government gave this task to private citizens. Private citizens can even report and sue Uber and Lyft drivers. 

Texas created a website where private citizens could report and sue anyone involved in an abortion and are awarded $10,000 if they win their case. Attorney fees are also being covered. 

Many law experts are saying how clever this bill is because while abortion providers usually would sue the state to stop a restrictive law from taking effect, in Texas’s case there is no single state official who would be enforcing Senate Bill 8 (Heartbeat Bill). 

The Texas Tribune talked to Josh Blackman who is a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston stated, “It’s a very unique law and it’s a very clever law…Planned Parenthood can’t go to court and sue Attorney General Ken Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute. They have to basically sit and wait to be sued.” 

According to The Daily, which is a podcast done by the New York Times, said that many organizations like Planned Parenthood would be hesitant to even fight a lawsuit because there would be so many other factors involved. This law was made to be money-draining to organizations that run solely off of donations and non-government revenue. 

Even the term “Heartbeat Bill” and “fetal heartbeat” is medically misleading and have been used more of a legal or political term. The term “fetus” is not used to describe a pregnancy until the end of the tenth week of gestation. Before fetus is used, the correct descriptive term is the embryo. 

One of the few ways for a doctor to detect a heartbeat so early into pregnancy, at six weeks, is by using a trans-vaginal ultrasound. But a heartbeat cannot be detected by a doppler fetal monitor, which is used when someone is aware that they are pregnant. When using a doppler fetal monitor it can only be used at 12 weeks of gestation. 

One of the main points of controversy of this bill is that many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks. At this stage a woman is only two weeks late for her period and being late can be caused by many different things. Stress, changes in body weight, thyroid issues, or even hormonal contraceptives can make a woman’s period late. And as stated above the only way to detect a heartbeat at this stage is with a trans-vaginal ultrasound which regular doctors do not have or don’t have access to. A woman would have to go to her OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist). 

Another reason why so many people are upset with this bill is that abortions after six weeks are still not allowed in special cases. These would include rape and incest, the Texas Tribune said, “The Bill does not allow rapists to sue, but abortion rights advocates say the wording offers flimsy protections as most rapes and sexual assaults aren’t reported and don’t result in a conviction.” 

Governor Abbot of Texas stated on September 8th that a woman will have six weeks to get an abortion. CBS reported that in Texas, the majority of all violent crimes, which amount to 14,650, are cases of rape. But in 2019 fewer than 3,900 people were actually arrested for rape and other sex crimes. 

All of this leads to the question of what will happen to Roe v. Wade? When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died in September of 2020 and Trump-appointed conservative Judge Amy Comey Barrett to the court to fill her seat many Pro-Choice activists were afraid that steps would soon follow that would result in Roe v. Wade being overturned.