Texas governor signs ‘heartbeat’ bill into law

Texas Texas state capitol building | f11photo/Shutterstock

The governor of Texas on Wednesday signed a ban on most abortions conducted after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed SB 8, a bill prohibiting doctors from performing abortions unless they first search for a fetal heartbeat, which can be detected as early as six weeks into pregnancy. If doctors were to detect a heartbeat, under the legislation they could not perform an abortion except in a medical emergency.

The law is enforced exclusively through private civil action, not by the government.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet, millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott stated on Wednesday at the bill signing.

“In Texas, we work to save those lives, and that’s exactly what the Texas legislature did this session,” he added.

The law, he said, “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”

The Texas legislative director for the group Human Coalition Action, Chelsey Youman, stated on Wednesday that due to the legislation, “approximately 50,000 precious human lives will be saved in Texas next year alone!” 

“Medical developments make it increasingly difficult to deny the brutal reality that abortion always extinguishes an innocent human life,” Youman stated. “The Governor’s signature boldly defends the defenseless today.”

SB 8 was introduced by state senators Bryan Hughes and Paul Bettencourt. It passed the state senate by a vote of 18-12 on May 13. The Texas Catholic Conference supported the legislation.

When the legislation passed the state House, the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List offered praise for it.

“This legislation protecting every child with a beating heart makes a bold statement that Texas deeply values life, and we’re pleased to see it advance,” stated Susan B. Anthony List state policy director Sue Liebel.

The act will take effect on Sept. 1, 2021. The pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood Action promised on Wednesday to "fight back."

Alexis McGill Johnson, executive director and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the law “cruel and extreme.”

“And they've included a dangerous provision that allows ANYONE from any state to sue an abortion provider and others who help someone get care?? Absolutely not. Access to abortion has never been more at risk — and we're going to fight back like hell,” McGill Johnson tweeted on Wednesday.

Other state governors have signed "heartbeat" abortion bans recently, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. Oklahoma's governor signed a "heartbeat" ban in April, legislation which will take effect in November 2021. South Carolina's governor also signed a "heartbeat" bill earlier this year, before it was blocked from going into effect by a federal court in February.

This article was updated on May 19 with additional information.

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