“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
– C.S. Lewis.
In 1973, a Supreme Court case originating in Texas sealed the fate of 63 million Americans. That case, Roe vs. Wade, asserted that every woman has the sacred and fundamental right to privacy, which included abortion. Forty-eight years later, in the same state in which this nation-changing litigation began, a new bill has surfaced, challenging the powerful legacy of Roe vs. Wade. The “Heartbeat Act,” which went into effect on September 1st of this year, was foundationally different from other heartbeat bills passed in previous years. What was it about this act in Texas that so fundamentally endangers the so-called “right to abortion?”
To understand the importance of this bill, you must understand how other bills are structured. Similarly, previous heartbeat bills outlawed abortion from the time that the fetus’s heartbeat is detectable. Stating that “it [is] a crime for a physician to knowingly perform an abortion… after determining that a fetus has a detectable heartbeat,” while still protecting “an abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical (but not psychological or emotional) disorder, illness, or condition.” The bills also provided protection for any woman who underwent the prohibited abortion, stating that they “may not be prosecuted for violating or conspiring to violate the provisions of this bill.” From 2013 to 2021, these types of bills have repeatedly been struck down by court orders.
These bills have nearly all been struck down by the same argument an Alabama judge made. As Anna North writes in a recent Vox article, “Judge Myron H. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a preliminary injunction blocking [the] law,” stating that “Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Court precedent.” In every instance, government authorities have been unable to enforce these heartbeat bills. This is due to Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations like NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) challenging the laws and the state in court. These pro-choice, often government-funded organizations are able to stop the implementation of pro-life bills via friendly judges. The way the bill was set up in Texas was quite different. The Texas bill empowers private citizens to file civil suits against the doctors and staff at abortion clinics and anyone who pays for the abortion or provides transportation to the clinic. The big difference between this bill and previous ones is that individuals (primarily those connected to that particular abortion) are able to bring suit. This means that NARAL and Planned Parenthood are left out of the whole process and thus cannot counter sue. The result is that the law has stayed on the books.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, and the upcoming bill, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, which would outlaw abortion after 15 weeks, have pro-lifers hopeful that significant restrictions will be placed upon the act of abortion, ultimately leading to the end of Roe vs. Wade.
“Texas Right to Life | Statewide Builders of a Pro-Life Texas.” Texasrighttolife.com, 15 Sept. 2021, texasrighttolife.com/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2021.
“Roe v. Wade (1973).” LII / Legal Information Institute, 2021, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/roe_v_wade_%281973%29. Accessed 17 Sept. 2021.
Katherine Beck Johnson. “Explainer: What Is Happening with Texas’ New Pro-Life Law?” FRC Blog, 2021, www.frcblog.com/2021/09/explainer-what-happening-texas-new-pro-life-law/. Accessed 17 Sept. 2021.
“Here’s What the Texas Abortion Law Says.” The New York Times, 2021, www.nytimes.com/article/abortion-law-texas.html. Accessed 17 Sept. 2021.
Capitol.Texas.Gov, 2021, https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/SB00008F.pdf#navpanes=0. Accessed 17 Sept 2021.
North, Anna. “Alabama Abortion Ban Blocked in Court, like Other Near-Total Bans.” Vox, Vox, 2 Oct. 2019, www.vox.com/2019/10/2/20895034/alabama-abortion-ban-blocked-georgia-law. Accessed 18 Sept. 2021.
“C. S. Lewis Quote: ‘You Can’t Go Back and Change the Beginning, but You Can Start Where You Are and Change the Ending.’” Quotefancy.com, 2021, quotefancy.com/quote/781638/C-S-Lewis-You-can-t-go-back-and-change-the-beginning-but-you-can-start-where-you-are-and. Accessed 18 Sept. 2021.
“Dobbs: Late-Term Abortion Case.” March for Life, 21 Sept. 2021, marchforlife.org/dobbs/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2021.
Wikipedia Contributors. “Heartbeat Bill.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Sept. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartbeat_bill#/media/File:Heartbeat_Bill.svg. Accessed 19 Sept. 2021.
Brave New World. “Texas Heartbeat Bill: Celebrate It, and Seek More Victories.” Brave New World Media, 15 Sept. 2021, bravenewworldmedia.com/texas-heartbeat-bill-celebrate-it-and-seek-more-victories/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2021.