Gov. Greg Abbott signed the "Heartbeat" bill into law Wednesday, banning abortions after six weeks—when a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected—in the state of Texas. Up until this point, state law prohibited abortions after about 20 weeks. The law makes exceptions for medical emergencies.
The law also allows for private citizens to sue abortion providers. It is scheduled to be in effect by September, if it does not meet challenges in court.
"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 said in a bill signing ceremony, captured on videos posted on social media.
"In Texas, we work to save those lives," he continued. "And that's exactly what the legislature did this session."
He offered his thanks for all the pro-life groups that "worked tirelessly" to pass the bill, and for "everything they do to cultivate a culture of life in Texas."
The law is one of the most pro-life abortion laws in the nation, and is announced just days following the Supreme Court's historic decision to review the Mississippi bill that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. This will be the first major abortion case to reach the High Court with its new conservative majority.
While other pro-life laws have centered on government mandates, the Texas law is unique in that it gives power to the individual citizen to sue abortion providers, regardless of if they are connected to someone who had an abortion or not. In the past, abortion providers could sue the state for restrictions such as this, but in this case, the law is not enforced by any one state official, therefore, the bill's proponent's say there would be no one to sue.
"It's a very unique law and it's a very clever law," said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. "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."
John Seago, with Texas Right to Life, said the goal of the law is to encourage abortion providers to comply with the law rather than fighting it in court.
Lila Rose, founder of pro-life advocacy group LiveAction, tweeted her praise for the bill. "This is a great step toward total protection," she said.
BREAKING: @GregAbbott_TX just signed a bipartisan "heartbeat bill" into law in Texas— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) May 19, 2021
"This bill ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat is protected from the ravages of abortion."
This is a great step toward total protection.https://t.co/KpUjjR5DvY
The group's page also echoed her sentiments, saying, "Much work is still to be done, but this is a great step forward."
BREAKING: @GovAbbott signs a bill into law banning abortion after a child's heartbeat can be detected.— Live Action (@LiveAction) May 19, 2021
THANK YOU to the human rights advocates who brought this bill through the finish line.
Much work is still to be done, but this is a great step forward. https://t.co/51sMuVPl0H
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