TEXAS (LifeSiteNews) – UPDATE, September 1, 2021: Texas became the first state in the nation Wednesday to effectively ban abortions on babies with beating hearts, as the United States Supreme Court declined to act on the abortion lobby’s last-minute petition to block the Texas Heartbeat Act from taking effect.
While it remains to be seen what the Court will do over the long term, for now the law has already begun to save lives. NBC News reported Tuesday evening that “all 11 of the Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas” have “stopped scheduling visits after Sept. 1 for abortions past six weeks of pregnancy,” and that Whole Woman’s Health claims that its “four clinics in Texas will also comply with the law and prohibit abortion at seven weeks or less depending on the ultrasound results and if cardiac activity is detected.”
The development was met with joy across the pro-life community.
“It’s September 1st. Know what that means?? Babies in Texas with a detectable heartbeat can’t be killed by abortion!!!” wrote Abby Johnson, leader of And Then There Were None, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people leave the abortion industry. “We are hearing that abortion facilities are cancelling appointments as we speak. We believe that at least 150 babies will be saved every single day from this legislation!! As a prolife Texan, I couldn’t be more excited!”
“A special thanks to Texas Values who championed this bill from the start,” Johnson added. “It has been a joy to work with them on this piece of legislation!”
It's past midnight now in Texas. The Heartbeat Law has gone into effect. Every child with a detectable heartbeat is legally protected from being killed by abortion.
Thinking of all the inestimably precious lives that will be spared today & their new lease on life
An amazing day
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 1, 2021
“NIFLA is thrilled that unborn babies in the state of Texas will be protected from slaughter,” said National Institute of Family and Life Advocates President Thomas Glessner. “We congratulate Texas for being the first state in America to ban killing innocent children in the womb as early as six weeks in pregnancy. Furthermore, we applaud the U. S. Supreme Court for allowing the ban to take effect and saving lives.”
Go ahead and take a minute to pray for all children, born and unborn, and their wonderful mommas — and for those who have tremendous guilt associated with the violence of abortion.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 1, 2021
“As the Supreme Court allows Texas’ new fetal heartbeat law to take effect, the tragedy of industrial-scale, state-sponsored violation of the human right to life of infants in the womb is finally ending in the same State where it started nearly 50 years ago,” Center for Medical Progress founder and president David Daleiden said. “Now at last is the time for a new and more humane way forward, where the progress of our communities is not purchased with the blood of our children.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act is now in effect!
Texas is officially the first state EVER to enforce a heartbeat law!
God bless Texas.
— Texas Right to Life (Text ProLife to 40237) (@TXRightToLife) September 1, 2021
“Undoubtedly, today is a historic and hopeful day,” said Human Coalition Action Texas Legislative Director Chelsey Youman. “Texas is the first state to successfully protect the most vulnerable among us, preborn children, by outlawing abortion once their heartbeats are detected. A fetal heartbeat is a clear and scientifically acknowledged sign of human life. Human beings are worthy of protection at all phases of development and the importance of a growing human in the womb cannot be undermined in good conscience. We are confident in SB 8’s constitutionality. Legal challenges to SB 8 are groundless and will ultimately fail.”
ORIGINAL STORY, August 31, 2021: Texas may become the first state in almost half a century to effectively ban abortions Wednesday, thanks to a federal court’s decision not to block a law enacted earlier this year against aborting babies with detectable heartbeats.
Signed in May by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Heartbeat Act requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies.
The law relies on a unique enforcement mechanism. Instead of having the state prosecute violators, it “exclusively” empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists, punishable by a minimum of $10,000 in statutory relief per abortion plus whatever additional injunctive relief is deemed “sufficient to prevent the defendant from violating this chapter or engaging in acts that aid or abet violations of this chapter.”
Notably, these private citizens do not need to have any connection to anyone involved in a specific abortion. South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman has explained that the advantage of this approach is 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.”
Texas Right to Life (TRTL) has set up a website where concerned Texans can anonymously report abortionists who commit abortions after finding a heartbeat or without testing for one.
The Texas Tribune reports that abortion organizations including Planned Parenthood Center for Choice and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance filed emergency motions with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay on enforcing the law. But on Friday night the court canceled a hearing on the matter that had been planned for Monday, then denied the motions on Sunday afternoon.
The 5th Circuit’s denial cleared the way for the law to take effect Wednesday, September 1, but abortion defenders continue to pursue additional avenues to block it.
On Tuesday, Travis County District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum granted a temporary restraining order keeping Texas Right to Life and its executive director, John Seago, from bringing enforcement suits against Dallas attorney Michelle Tuegel “and others like her who speak about, provide funds to, and help women access abortions and other reproductive health services,” according to Tuegel.
The order does not block the law itself, but abortion allies hoped it would hobble enforcement by limiting TRTL’s ability to help organize lawsuits and causing a chilling effect among others who might sue abortionists on their own.
Texas Right to Life quickly declared that it won’t, assuring supporters that the order “does not block the Texas Heartbeat Act from being enforced at midnight.” It explained that the “plaintiffs claimed they feared Texas Right to Life would sue them under the Texas Heartbeat Act for aiding and abetting illegal abortions,” but “Texas Right to Life never threatened to sue these specific plaintiffs.” The group further stressed that it can still sue “others who violate the Texas Heartbeat Act, including abortionists.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to block the Texas Heartbeat Act before Wednesday. If it does not, CRR president Nancy Northup said, “Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade.”
One way or another, the Supreme Court will ultimately decide the long-term fate of this and other abortion bans across the country.
The Court announced in May that it would be hearing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns a Mississippi law banning abortions from being committed past 15 weeks for any reason other than physical medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. After its enactment in 2019, the 5th Circuit deemed it unconstitutional because of an “unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade.”
Various pro-life public officials, scholars, and activists have filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to not merely uphold the law but take the opportunity to directly overturn both Roe and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which opened the door to some abortion regulations while reaffirming the “right” to abortion itself).
Many pro-lifers see the case as the greatest test yet of the current justices, a majority of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, yet have still disappointed pro-lifers and conservatives on various occasions.
Only Justice Clarence Thomas is explicitly on the record as anti-Roe, and only he and Justice Samuel Alito have established consistently conservative records over a significant period of time. Many have placed a great deal of hope with former President Donald Trump’s appointees, though conservatives have also been alarmed by Justice Neil Gorsuch voting to redefine “sex” in federal civil rights law last year, and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett voting not to hear several cases of concern to religious, conservative, and/or pro-life Americans.
“Roe is grievously wrong for many reasons, but the most fundamental is that its core holding—that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to abort her unborn child—finds no support in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Thomas has written. “[T]he idea that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment understood the Due Process Clause to protect a right to abortion is farcical.”