Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s new heartbeat law on Wednesday — a measure that would prohibit abortions in Texas as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The law will take effect in September.
The state’s legislative leaders “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Abbott said in a video livestreamed on Facebook.
Abbott quickly posted on Twitter regarding the new bill. “In Texas, we will always lead the way to protect the unborn,” he wrote.
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) May 19, 2021
The bill adds Texas to the list of conservative-led states that have passed similar “heartbeat bills,” which federal courts have mostly blocked.
Prior to Texas, Idaho became to latest state to pass a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban.
The state’s Republican governor, Brad Little, signed the controversial pro-life legislation in April, according to Reuters.
The Texas measure, which is likely to draw legal challenges from pro-abortion groups, is considered by some to be “the strictest in Texas since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision,” according to a report by The Texas Tribune.
The bill also opens opportunities for a variety of lawsuits.
“Family members, abortion funds, rape crisis counselors and other medical professionals could be open to lawsuits, under the broad language in the bill, according to legal experts and physicians who opposed the measure. People who sued would be awarded at least $10,000, as well as costs for attorney’s fees, if they won,” The Tribune added.
The bill is not the first time Abbott has advocated for the unborn. In 2020, the governor restricted abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last April, a federal appeals court tossed aside a lower court decision that sought to block Texas from enforcing a temporary ban on most abortions amid restrictions imposed during the health care crisis brought on by the coronavirus.
The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pending the outcomes of further legal proceedings against the ban, Texas could prohibit all abortions with exceptions made for the life or health of a mother.
U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, wrote in the decision that “individual rights secured by the Constitution do not disappear during a public health crisis, but … Rights could be reasonably restricted during those times.”
“When faced with a society-threatening epidemic, a state may implement emergency measures that curtail constitutional rights so long as the measures have at least some ‘real or substantial relation’ to the public health crisis and are not ‘beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law,’” he wrote.
Texas holds one of the nation’s strongest records on pro-life issues in recent years. In 2019, one lawmaker even proposed the death penalty as a possible consequence for those involved in carrying out abortions.
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