87th LegislatureState SenateHeartbeat Act, Other Pro-Life Bills Pass Texas Senate

If passed into law, the bill would ban abortions when a heartbeat can be heard in the womb. Lawmakers diverge on how to enforce it.
April 2, 2021
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The Texas Senate passed “the Texas Heartbeat Act” this week: Senate Bill (SB) 8, by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola).

Heartbeat laws, which ban abortions after the detection of a heartbeat in the womb, have been passed in a number of other states like Louisiana, Ohio, and Utah.

This year’s legislative session in Texas is not the first to see a heartbeat bill, nor is Hughes’ version the only one traveling through the Texas legislature.

State Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) has joined Hughes with an identical companion in the House but has also filed a second heartbeat bill with a different enforcement method. While Hughes’ version would let regular citizens sue the abortionist or those who aided the procedure, Slawson’s HB 1165 would let the Texas Medical Board discipline the abortion physicians.

Both methods seek to find a way around court precedent that forbids state governments from imposing an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. In the 2019 session, a heartbeat bill that would have empowered the state to prosecute and jail abortionists who violated it died in committee.

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Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and the Texas Freedom Caucus both made heartbeat legislation one of their priorities for this session.

The heartbeat act was just one of a few pro-life bills passed by the Texas Senate this week, including a proposed outright ban on abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Ordered by bill number, they are:

SB 8, “the Texas Heartbeat Act,” which would ban abortions after detection of the unborn child’s heartbeat.

SB 9, the “trigger” ban, which would ban abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or otherwise “restores to the states the authority to prohibit abortion.”

SB 394, which would penalize physicians that dispense abortion-inducing drugs to patients by courier, delivery, or mail service. The abortion physician must examine the pregnant woman in person, determine her blood type to avoid complications with certain drugs, and get her informed consent before providing the drug.

SB 650, which would forbid government bodies from funding “logistical support” for abortions, such as travel or lodging.

SB 802, “the Every Mother Matters Act” (EMMA), which would require abortion physicians to make sure that their patients receive a “pre-abortion resource access assistance” offer before the procedure to connect them to support services like adoption services or housing.

SB 1173, “the Preborn Non-Discrimination Act” (PreNDA), which would ban abortions based on sex, race, or disability.

SB 1647, which combines PreNDA, the heartbeat act, and the trigger ban.

More in-depth summaries of each bill can be found here.

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.