Texas passes heartbeat law affecting abortion
By: Nicholas Ratcliff
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed Senate Bill 8, also known as the heartbeat bill, into law challenging the current federal abortion laws and potentially opening the gate for any private citizen to sue abortion providers and others starting on Sept. 1, 2021.
The first thing the law does is prohibit abortions after six weeks, which will make it the strictest abortion law to date in the country. This law includes women who are pregnant due to the result of rape or incest; however, there is still an exception for medical emergencies.
Dyana Limon-Mercado, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes stated, “When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”
Many citizens within the state are worried that Limon-Mercado is right.
Abbott, however, defended the law stating, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.”
On top of limiting the time frame a woman has to get an abortion, this bill also shifts the responsibility of who will enforce the law. Instead of the government enforcing the heartbeat law, they will now depend on private citizens to sue abortion clinics or anyone who helps someone receive an abortion. This means that any private citizen in Texas can now sue anyone who was connected to an abortion that took place six weeks after conception, and they don’t have to know or have any connection to the person who had the abortion to sue.
Not only does this law open the doors for a cascade of lawsuits that will drain Planned Parenthood’s resources, but it also stops Planned Parenthood from being able to sue the state of Texas because there’s no state official enforcing the law.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston stated that “It’s a very unique law and it’s a very clever law.”
He goes on to add that, “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.”
On top of Planned Parenthood, this bill allows family members, abortion funds, rape crisis counselors and other medical professionals to be sued if they are involved with an abortion after six weeks in any way. People who decide to sue will be rewarded $10,000 and have their attorney fees covered as long as they win the case.
Over 300 Texas lawyers opposed this bill due to the longstanding tenets of the legal system, including the requirement of an injury in order to have legal grounds to sue.
According to Blackman this will result in some problems.
“Every citizen is now a private attorney general. You can have random people who are against abortion start suing tomorrow,” Blackman said.