- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2021

The Texas state senator who drafted the new law banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected said he’s confident the law will stand up in court and has been talking to lawmakers in other states about how to mirror his legislation.

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, who represents the more than a dozen counties in Northeast Texas, said district attorneys in the state said they would not enforce a pro-life law limiting abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, so legislators worked with lawyers and reviewed Supreme Court rulings in drafting the new law that’s making history.

The law, which the Supreme Court declined to block last week, prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. But instead of having state officials enforce the ban, private citizens are able to sue in civil court any abortion providers who violate the law.

Abortion providers are still challenging the legislation in court, arguing that it is unconstitutional and runs afoul of the right to an abortion established in the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Abortion clinics in Texas stopped performing the services after about six weeks of gestation — when a heartbeat is usually detected — at midnight on Sept. 1, when the law took effect.

Neighboring states, meanwhile, reportedly have seen an increase in Texas residents coming out of state to obtain the procedures.

“We were very encouraged to see the law take effect and to see it saving little babies all across Texas,” said Mr. Hughes. “We are going to be in good shape. We knew this law would be challenged.”

The Supreme Court divided 5-4 last Wednesday, leaving the Texas law in place while litigation continues.

“It’s really encouraging. We knew this would work legally on paper, but we have to say so far it is working better than we anticipate,” Mr. Hughes said.

The justices did not resolve whether the law halting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected was legal. They may review that issue in the future depending on how lower courts treat challenges under the new law.

Critics argue that the Texas restrictions would ban roughly 85% of abortions in the state, causing clinics to close.

President Biden directed his administration to look for ways to challenge the law and protect reproductive rights.

According to a report Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department is considering suing Texas over the legislation, arguing that the ban interferes with federal interests.

Hannah Roe Beck, co-executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, welcomed the president and his administration fighting against the legislation, saying it is already threatening the health and safety of people in the state.

“We’re calling on Congress to urgently pass federal abortion rights protections. This is about protecting Americans from the whims of a handful of conservative lawmakers who, in 2021, are still intent on meddling in our most intimate, important decisions about our bodies and our lives. This cruel and shameful legislation is simply an attempt at intimidation by [Gov.] Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans — who govern only through terror. Abortion is health care and a human right,” she said.

The fact that the Supreme Court did not grant the abortion providers’ request on emergency appeal to block the legislation last week has emboldened other red states to follow suit.

Lawmakers in Arkansas and Mississippi are considering how to implement similar legislation in their states.

“I’ve texted with some and through mutual friends we know a number of other state legislators are looking at this,” Mr. Hughes said. “At least a half a dozen to a dozen other states are looking at this approach.”

“As other states look at what Texas has done and adjust their laws accordingly, we are optimistic you will see in the next weeks and months passing similar laws,” he added.

Since the high court‘s move, a state judge in Austin issued a restraining order against Texas Right to Life, a large pro-life group, blocking the organization from suing a Texas abortion clinic. However, the order did not block the law altogether.

Texas has attempted to pass strict abortion restrictions in the past.

In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down some of the state’s requirements on abortion providers but more than half of the state’s abortion clinics had to close before the justices stepped in, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, blue states have gone the opposite route with New York and Virginia loosening requirements in recent years for women to obtain abortions.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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