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Anti Abortion Bill in Texas

Billie Pine

In May of 2021, Texas lawmakers passed an act prohibiting abortions after the detection of ‘cardiac activity’ in the embryo (often as early as 6 weeks pregnant), known as the Texas Heartbeat Act. The majority of pregnant people don’t realise they are pregnant by 6 weeks (it is a late menstrual cycle, by 2 weeks, given that the cycle is regular). Under Texas law, by the time a period is meant to arrive, a pregnant person would have to recognise her pregnancy, confirm it with a test, decide on how to operate around their pregnancy and then obtain an abortion, all within 2 weeks. Planned Parenthood estimates 85-90% of abortions are completed past 6 weeks of pregnancy, meaning the Texas Heartbeat bill would prevent 85-90% of abortions from occurring legally.

“It is extremely possible and very common for people to get to the six-week mark and not know they are pregnant,” says Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, lead for equity transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Further, the emotive name of the bill is deceptive - cardiac activity detected on ultrasound originates from electrical activity, as heart valves have not yet formed, meaning it is not a heartbeat. This electrical activity or perceived ‘heartbeat’ does not guarantee a viable heartbeat. “Forcing them to find out about a pregnancy and make a decision about how to manage it in a short period of time is antithetical to ethical care,” says Villavicencio.

To avoid conflict with Roe v. Wade, the law defining the prohibition of abortion as unconstitutional, the Texas Heartbeat Act establishes that any Texan resident, providing a lack of vested interest, is permitted to sue anyone who performs/receives an abortion in violation of the boundaries, as well as ‘aiders or abetters in the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.’ Not only does this permit and authorize lawsuits against abortion-providing services (such as Planned Parenthood), but also against funds for abortions, employers of people who receive abortions, or insurance companies that may defray abortion costs. It also endangers anyone who may ‘aid or abet’ the performance of abortion by providing a reference, recommendation, transport or any kind of logistical assistance. The violation of the Act must pay $10,000 per abortion, including the cost of the abortion itself and attorney’s fees.

“These laws are unconstitutional, as we have understood Supreme Court rulings until now, and courts have quickly issued preliminary injunctions blocking enforcement,” says state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, Elizabeth Nash.