The Heartbeat Act, also known as Senate Bill (SB) 8, made abortion illegal after a fetal pulse is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy.
What set the law apart was its enforcement mechanism. Rather than empowering government agencies, it authorized private citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers or those who helped facilitate it in some manner — excluding fathers who conceived said children out of rape or incest — for up to $10,000.
After SB 8 took effect on September 1, 2021, OB/GYN Dr. Alan Braid penned an op-ed for the Washington Post claiming he performed an abortion on September 6 in violation of the law. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences,” Braid wrote, “but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
He was then slapped with multiple lawsuits, some to enforce the law and some to force a court review of SB 8 and see if it could be overturned.
A December 8 press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), which is defending Braid in one of his suits, revealed that the judge had thrown the case out. “This is the first and only case filed against a provider under S.B. 8 to be resolved by a court,” the release reads.
According to CRR, the court said that citizens do not have the right to file suit against those who perform or abet abortions “if they have not been directly impacted by the abortion services provided.”
This does not invalidate SB as a whole. This also has no effect on the Human Life Protection Act, also known as the “trigger ban,” which went into effect on August 25 this year. This law made it illegal to perform or abet abortions unless to save the mother from death or substantial bodily impairment.
Unlike SB 8, the trigger ban does allow the government to prosecute and punish for abortion: five to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
The Texan reached out to the office of state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), who first introduced the Heartbeat Act, for comment, but received no response by the time of publication.
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