This morning, May 13th, the Texas Senate gave final approval (amendment concurrence) for the final passage of the pro-life Texas Heartbeat Bill, SB 8 authored by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and sponsored by Representative Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville).
The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 18-12 and is now on its way to Governor Greg Abbott for his signature. The policy would take effect on September 1, 2021.
Rep. Shelby Slawson is serving in her first legislation session and has shown she is ready to lead on such an important issue, while Senator Bryan Hughes is a veteran of the Texas Legislature and one of the most distinguished pro-life members at the Texas Capitol.
Gov. Greg Abbott has already stated twice in Twitter posts that he will sign the Texas Heartbeat bill.
“A heartbeat is a universal sign of life, and that’s why so many Texans believe that when a heartbeat of an unborn child is detected, that child should be protected. The Texas Heartbeat Act is different than Heartbeat laws in others states, by relying on civil actions to enforce the law making it near impossible for the usual claims of a constitutional violation,” said Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values.
“Today is a great day for all future preborn children in Texas. The strongest pro-life bill in Texas history will soon be on the Governor’s desk. We are grateful the Legislature recognizes the importance of life,” said Mary Elizabeth Castle, Policy Advisor at Texas Values.
When signed into law, the Texas Heartbeat Act will abolish elective abortions as early as six weeks, when the preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable using methods according to standard medical practice.
A heartbeat is a universal indicator of life and a key medical indicator that an unborn baby will reach live birth. SB 8 requires physicians to check for a baby’s heartbeat and inform the mother if the presence of a heartbeat is detected. Once a heartbeat is detected, the doctor must take all necessary steps to protect the life of the child.
The bill also creates civil liability for a doctor that performs an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, and for aiding and abetting an abortion. SB 8 empowers citizens to file civil actions to enforce the Heartbeat law.
However, 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.
Since the government will not be in the position of enforcing the law, this makes it nearly impossible for there to be a claim of an unconstitutional violation. The government must be the one enforcing the law for there to be a constitutional violation or a successful pre-enforcement challenge.
Since 2013, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee have all signed into law a similar Heartbeat bill, with Texas about to be the next.
Texas Right to Life Senior Legislative Associate Rebecca Parma welcomed the news, saying: “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.”
The Texas Heartbeat bill has been supported by a number of groups and individuals, looking to defend the life of the unborn.
Some key groups supporting the Texas Heartbeat Bill include: Texas Values, Human Coalition Action, Family Policy Alliance, Concerned Women for America (CWA) Texas, Texas Right to Life, Janet Porter (Faith 2 Action), Chairman Allen West (RPT), SBA List, Texas Eagle Forum, ACLJ, Texas Teens for Life, Fredericksburg Tea Party, Texas Young Republicans, Baylor Bears for Life/Students for Life Action, Texas Pastor Council, Texas Faith & Freedom Coalition, Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of SBTC.
Key pro-life leaders supporting the Texas Heartbeat Bill: Abby Johnson, Gov. Greg Abbott, Dr. James Dobson, Ann Hettinger, Lauren Muzyka, Jason Jones, Kelly Shackelford, Janet Porter, Jonathan Saenz, Abortion survivors Gianna Jessen and Claire Culwell, Walter Weber, Pastor Frank Pomeroy, Tim Von Dohlen, Karen Garnett, Pastor Dave Welch, Jessica Colon, Tim Lambert.