Read Texas Senate Bill 8 here. Some highlights:
- The bill says that Texas “never repealed, either expressly or by implication, the state statues enacted before the ruling in Rove v. Wade…that prohibit and criminalize abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.” In other words, Texas’s pre-Roe v. Wade laws criminalizing abortion are still on the books despite the fact that Roe v. Wade made them unconstitutional and unenforceable.
- The bill defines “fetal heartbeat” as the “cardiac activity of the steady and repetitive rhythmic retraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.” According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the fetus’s heart is beating before the end of four weeks.
- The bill says “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman unless the physician has determined…whether the woman’s unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.” It adds, “A physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child….”
- The bill places enforcement of this law on civilians, not government officials: “Any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local government entity…, may bring a civil action against any person who performs or induces an abortion…, knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance of inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.…(Italics mine). In other words, private citizens can bring civil suits against abortion doctors, a person who drives a woman to an abortion clinic (Uber drivers?), or someone who covers the cost of the abortion. If I understand this correctly, parents who pay for their daughter’s abortion can be sued by any Texan, including complete strangers. The bill also says that burden of proof relies on the defendant, not the private citizen bringing the suit. The Texas Right to Life organization has already set-up a “whistleblower” website.“
- It is also worth noting that these civil suits will be levied against the doctors and those who aid and abet. They are not levied against the women who have the abortions.
- If a private citizen brings a civil suit against a person who performs an abortion and wins in court, the court will require the abortion provider or the aider and abettor to pay the private citizen no less than $10,000 for “each abortion that the defendant performed or induced in violation of this subchapter….” A citizen has four years following the abortion to bring his or her civil suit.
- One can imagine an entire industry built around initiating these civil suits. “Ambulance chaser” lawyers in Texas now have a new source of revenue. I scan see the television ads already: “Did your neighbor’s daughter have an abortion? You may be entitled to $10,000. Call 1-800-LAWYER today!”
- There are no exceptions in the bill for rape and incest.
Read the entire bill here.
Here are some helpful explanatory articles:
Russell Moore at Christianity Today