The Heartbeat of America: Texas’s Abortion Law

by Lanie Hymowitz ’22

Source: Dallas Morning News

Published Dec. 2nd, 2021

This past September, Texas’s “SB 8” abortion law went into effect, a controversial bill signed in May of 2021. The law has been a source of political tension since it’s beginnings, and it received renewed attention following recent legal reviews by the Supreme Court.

Although not an outright ban, this law is perhaps the strictest restriction of abortion across the United States as of now. The law prohibits abortion once a foetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women realize they are expecting. While the bill allows for exceptions in cases where a pregnancy poses a significant threat to the mother’s health, pregnancies as a result of rape and incest are subject to the law.

One striking feature of the abortion law is the benefits included for citizens who enforce it. The law encourages Texans to sue anyone involved in abortion practices, such as doctors, medical consultants, and drivers who take women to abortion clinics, by promising a reward of money and subsidized legal fees.

As states are not inherently responsible for upholding the law, SB 8 is a particularly difficult bill to challenge, but challenge it people did.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, the case initially brought before the Supreme Court, instigated the question of whether or not a law enforced by the general public violated the constitutional right to abortion defined in Roe v. Wade. In a 5-4 decision, the court denied the appeal, allowing SB 8 to remain in place.

“The life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Texas governor Greg Abbott said, concerning his hopes for this monumental bill.

The passage of such a law was a soaring victory for Republicans, especially after the failure of implementing abortion restrictions in other conservative dominated states, such as Mississippi. SB 8 also opens the door for other states to adopt similar laws and for the Supreme Court to possibly overturn Roe v. Wade in the process. 

The effects of the bill on certain groups—women and doctors—are already evident. Dr. CeCe Cheng of the University of Texas Health Center of San Antonio remarks, “My only options now are to refer out of state or wait. I have to wait until my patient comes in with an emergency. Wait until the patient is bleeding profusely. Wait until there are signs of infection.” 

While opinions on this bill seem to be infinite, the increased partisan divisions left in its wake are undeniable. It seems that both sides are united in waiting for the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution anew.

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