Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation Wednesday barring most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, setting up a likely legal fight and becoming the latest red state to challenge the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.
Mr. Abbott said at the signing ceremony that the new law would ensure that “every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
“Our Creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Mr. Abbott said at the ceremony livestreamed on Facebook. “In Texas, we work to save those lives, and that’s exactly what the Texas legislature did this session.”
The Republican governor also credited the legislature with working “on a bipartisan basis,” although only two Democrats voted in favor of Senate Bill 8, which nonetheless passed with overwhelming margins in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Texas became the 14th state to approve so-called “heartbeat” bill, legislation that prohibits abortions in most cases as early as six weeks’ gestation
“A preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected using methods according to the standard medical practice as early as six weeks’ gestation,” said Texas Right to Life in a statement. “This measure will save thousands of lives and is a vital step in the road to abolishing all abortions in Texas.”
None of the other state bills has taken effect after being struck down by courts or blocked temporarily, a legal scenario likely to play out with the Texas legislation before it takes effect Sept. 1.
Even so, abortion foes have pushed such measures as they seek to chip away at the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a strategy that bore fruit Monday when the high court agreed to review the Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks’ pregnancy.
The Texas legislation bars abortions after the heartbeat can be detected except in cases of medical emergencies, and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or those who “aid and abet” with procuring an abortion.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas blasted the newly signed bill, calling it “the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in our state.”
The ACLU argued that the six-week deadline on obtaining an abortion would occur “before many Texans even know they are pregnant,” adding that “Abortion is still legal in Texas.”
Human Coalition Action Texas legislative director Chelsey Youman said the Texas bill’s legal twist could help it withstand a challenge.
“Unlike other heartbeat bills, Texas’ version is enforced exclusively through civil causes of action rather than through government enforcement,” she said. “It is therefore very difficult to challenge in federal court. I’m confident we will see other states following Texas’ lead by enacting similar bills and allowing beating hearts to beat.”
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.