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Gov. Greg Abbott has signed The Texas Heartbeat Act. Here’s why it matters

Texas Republicans have enacted one of the country’s most restrictive abortions laws, preventing nearly all abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat is detected

SHARE Gov. Greg Abbott has signed The Texas Heartbeat Act. Here’s why it matters
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a news conference in Dallas.

Texas Gov Greg Abbott is pictured during a news conference about migrant children detentions on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Dallas.

LM Otero, Associated Press

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Wednesday that makes it illegal for women in the Lone Star State to have an abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat is detected.

The new law is “one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country,” Austin’s KXAN reported, and is more limiting than a Mississippi abortion law the Supreme Court of the United States decided to hear earlier this week.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said moments before signing the legislation Wednesday. The Texas governor thanked lawmakers — both Republicans and Democrats — and anti-abortion groups for making sure the bill was passed, according to a video of bill signing Abbott posted to Twitter.

State Republican lawmakers shepherded the bill to Abbott’s desk, with one Senate Democrat and two House Democrats voting in favor of the abortion law, reported KXAN.

What’s in Texas’ new ‘heartbeat’ abortion law?

The Texas Heartbeat Act, or state Senate Bill 8, outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, The Texas Tribune reported.

  • The “heartbeat” law doesn’t identify a timeframe when abortions are no long legal in Texas, but “fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy” and “in many instances, women don’t even know they are pregnant at that time,” according to KXAN.
  • The law also applies to pregnancies that are the result of rape, but medical emergencies are an exception, according to The Texas Tribune.
  • “Instead of having the government enforce the law, the bill turns the reins over to private citizens — who are newly empowered to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps someone get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected,” reported The Texas Tribune. “The person would not have to be connected to someone who had an abortion or to a provider to sue.”

Supreme Court to weigh abortion case this fall

The Supreme Court announced earlier this week that it would hear a Mississippi abortion rights case this fall which could diminish rights Roe v. Wade provides to women.