Heartbeat Bill in Texas

In May 2021 Texas implemented one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.  Signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Senate Bill 8 of the 87th legislature prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as 6 weeks.  Similar laws, called ‘heartbeat laws’ or ‘heartbeat bills’ have been passed in several states and held up to high court scrutiny.

The Texas heartbeat bill has created controversy amongst pro-choices advocates who argue that the law essentially constitutes an abortion ban.  Among the more contentious points of the bill are:

  • The bill bans abortions after 6 weeks, which in some cases only gives a two-week window after a missed menstrual cycle.
  • The bill makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
  • Private individuals can sue abortion providers if an abortion takes place after the 6 week period, regardless of whether they had any involvement in the abortion or not.

Proponents of the bill maintain that the heartbeat law saves lives and prevents abortion as a means of birth control.  Said Abbott “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.  In Texas, we work to save those lives, and that’s exactly what the Texas Legislature did this session.”

It’s likely the heartbeat bill will be challenged, and its long term viability could be tested.  In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit brought against a Mississippi law which creates an abortion ban on terminations after 15 weeks.  The lawsuit alleges 15 weeks is too small a window for an abortion and creates an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion before viability.  Should Mississippi’s law stand, it will create precedent for Texas’s law.  If Mississippi’s heartbeat bill is struck down, Texas’s law will face similar peril.