After going into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, the Department of Justice sued Texas over their new law, Senate Bill 8 (SB8), that bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which usually occurs at around six weeks gestation.
The full lawsuit can be found here.
Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, said his office was confident the courts would uphold their new law, which does not make exceptions for instances of rape or incest.
“The most precious freedom is life itself,” Eze said. “Texas passed a law that ensures that the life of every child with a heartbeat will be spared from the ravages of abortion.”
However, in the same article on apnews.com, which discusses the new law and lawsuit, Joe Biden called SB8 “un-American,” and Attorney General Merrick Garland said that it is incompatible with the constitution.
“The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent,” Garland said.
The precedent Garland refers to is the landmark 1973 case ofRoe v. Wade, in which the Supreme Court acknowledged in their decision that a woman’s choice regarding abortion falls under their right to privacy.
The Supreme Court also said that “the state has legitimate interests in protecting the health of pregnant women and the “potentiality of human life,” the relative weight of each of these interests varies over the course of pregnancy, and the law must account for this variability,” according to Oyez.com.
So, also in their decision, the Supreme Court gave the guidelines (which vary for each trimester of pregnancy) that any abortion-regulating state law must adhere to.
According to those guidelines, no state, including Texas, can regulate abortion at the six-week mark, yet the new law remains in effect for at least the time being.
Having played a role in getting SB8 enacted, the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life published a video to their YouTube channel discussing SB8, which they call the Texas Heartbeat Act, the role they played, and answering questions about it.
The questions they address include can women seeking abortions be sued, who can sue an abortionist, how people can further their cause, and why they rely on private lawsuits to enforce the bill, to the latter of which they say, “through civil enforcement, the Texas Heartbeat Act escapes the talons of activists judges.”
For clarity, SB8 says that any citizen can bring a lawsuit against any person aiding or abetting an abortion in Texas after a detectable heartbeat, and “could be entitled to at least $10,000 in damages if they prevail in court.”
In other words, “The statute deputizes all private citizens … to serve as bounty hunters,” Garland said.
Despite these current risks, Texas doctor Alan Braid, a practicing OB/GYN for 45 years, has violated the abortion ban and spoken out about why they did.
“For me, it is 1972 all over again,” Braid said, referring to the year preceding the Roe v. Wade ruling in which they saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions.
It was a matter of care and constitution, Braid said.
On Sept. 6, “I provided an abortion to a woman who was beyond the state’s new limit … because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” Braid said. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Currently, the hearing date for the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against SB8 is scheduled for Oct. 1.