Earlier this week, the committee approved seven pro-life bills that will next face a full Senate vote before committee approval and a vote in the House.
Senate Bill (SB) 8 – “The Texas Heartbeat Act”
The bill, piloted by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), would ban abortions after detection of the unborn child’s heartbeat.
If passed into law, the state would not punish post-heartbeat abortions the same way that it enforces laws against regular murder or assault. Hughes’ bill would empower citizens to sue those who carry out or pay for abortions on a child with a detectable heartbeat. Claimants can sue up to six years after the abortion date and win damages of at least $10,000.
However, the bill sews in protections for abortion companies. It allows abortion providers or their employees and physicians to claim an affirmative defense to liability.
The protections reflect U.S. Supreme Court precedent affirming that abortion providers have standing to sue on behalf of women seeking abortions. In other words, abortion clinics may sue for injuries they never incurred, a precedent which the Supreme Court has strengthened in landmark cases from Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to June Medical v. Russo.
The bill makes an exception for “medical emergencies.”
SB 9 – The “Trigger” Ban
The bill makes exceptions for doctors trying to save the mother’s life. If passed into law, it would not apply to licensed physicians ending a pregnancy “that places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless the abortion is performed or induced.”
Medical treatment that accidentally kills the child would not be punished. The bill would also exempt the mother from punishment.
If passed into law, the bill would kick in once the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade or the states adopt a constitutional amendment that restores authority to prohibit abortion.
Authored by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), SB 394 would tighten restrictions on drug-induced abortions. It would make it unlawful to provide the drugs via courier, delivery, or mail service. The physician would also have to examine the pregnant woman in person, independently verify that the pregnancy exists, rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, and determine her blood type to prevent certain complications with the Rh-negative blood type. Physicians would be barred from providing the drugs to women whose pregnancies are beyond 49 days gestational age.
Physicians who violate the law would be guilty of a state jail felony. The woman would not be subject to any criminal penalty.
Lucio prefaces the bill with findings focused on the mother’s health, writing that “the state has an interest to protect the health and welfare of every woman considering a drug-induced abortion” and that “the use of Mifeprex/mifepristone presents significant medical complications including, but not limited to, uterine hemorrhage, viral infections, abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and pelvic inflammatory disease.”
SB 650, by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), would bar government bodies from spending money on “logistical support” to help women get abortions. “Logistical support” includes child care, travel, lodging, food, counseling that encourages abortions, or any other service “that facilitates the provision of an abortion.”
Campbell’s bill is pointed squarely at the City of Austin, where the city council has set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid women in procuring abortions. Austin had previously given Planned Parenthood a sweetheart rent deal at $1 a year before the 86th Legislature passed a bill prohibiting government bodies from funding abortion providers.
SB 802 – “The Every Mother Matters Act” (EMMA)
Another bill by Paxton, SB 802, would require women to receive a “pre-abortion resource access assistance” before the procedure. Specifically, the abortion physician would confirm that a counselor, doctor, social worker, or other care agent offered to connect the woman to support services like housing, employment, child care, counseling, or adoption services.
Care agents must not have recently performed an abortion or worked for an abortion facility. They also “may not refer women to an abortion provider, recommend abortion, or take any other action that directly or indirectly advises or assists a woman in obtaining an abortion.”
The system would assign a “de-identified” number for each mother, devoid of any personal information, to certify that the woman received the offer.
The pregnant woman is not required to provide any information to the care agent and may decline the service at any time.
SB 1173 – The Preborn Non-Discrimination Act (PreNDA)
Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) introduced this bill, which would ban abortions based on sex, race, or disability. The bill would also ensure that pregnant mothers of disabled unborn children receive information on supportive care to reduce the suffering of both the mother and the children after diagnoses of life-threatening disabilities.
The mothers, fathers, and maternal grandparents of aborted unborn children would have the power to sue those who carried out the procedure. The mother would be safe from such suits.
Current Texas law requires women to receive a sonogram a day before the procedure and sign a consent form, including a checkbox section to choose one of three possible exceptions to avoid hearing an explanation of the sonogram images. Fetal disability, as Hancock’s bill defines it, falls under one of these exceptions, which reads: “My fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality, as identified by reliable diagnostic procedures and documented in my medical file.” SB 1173 would strike this line from the form.
This omnibus bill combines PreNDA with heartbeat legislation and a total abortion ban, though the punishment mechanism for carrying out post-heartbeat abortions augments Hughes’ SB 8. On top of giving citizens the power to sue violators of the bill, SB 1647 would punish abortion physicians with a penalty to be decided by the Texas Medical Board, like license suspension.
The proposal would count performing or inducing a post-heartbeat abortion as a felony under state law.
The final subchapter of the mammoth bill is a total abortion ban, effective 2025 or earlier if the attorney general of Texas successfully applies to the U.S. Supreme Court for a declaration that the law is constitutional. It would enable mothers, fathers, and maternal grandparents of the child to sue those who carried out the abortion. The mothers would be safe from such suits.
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