Enacted on May 19th of this year, but only recently enforced on the first of September, the Texas Heartbeat Law bans an abortion of a fetus after six weeks of pregnancy. This is not the first heartbeat bill to be passed in the United States. In fact, eleven states have passed the bill since 2019. With this bill spreading across the country, many are left wondering exactly what a heartbeat abortion ban is.
Interpreted literally, a heartbeat bill states that abortions may not be performed when there is a fetal heartbeat. With pregnancies, a fetal heartbeat could be detected as early as six weeks. Most at-home pregnancy tests don’t even detect a pregnancy until the fifth week of pregnancy, making it extremely difficult to schedule doctors appointments, and leaving those with very little resources to fully consider their options, essentially taking the option away from them.
Doctor Jennifer Gunter, a gynecologist, argues that calling this abortion ban the “heartbeat bill,” is not factually correct. Dr. Gunter explains that at six weeks the “heartbeat” detected is actually not a heartbeat at all, but rather activity that can be detected from the fetal pole. Quoted from plannedparenthood.org, the doctor says, “The politicians know exactly what they are doing as [the term ‘heartbeat’] is a way of making a 4 mm thickening next to a yolk sac seem like it is almost ready to walk.”
The heartbeat bill also makes zero exceptions for cases of rape or incest, forcing victims to carry full term, and then deliver that baby. In a recent conference, Texas Governor, Greg Abott, said, “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.” This statement leaves many with the question of how will this prevent rapes? In a perfect world, seeing other rapists punished would stop rapes, however, these crimes have been punished for centuries, and it still has not “eliminated rapists.” This leaves the question as to how Texas will make an effort to prevent these gruesome crimes, or if victims will continue to be left with the aftermath of their traumas.
Abott defends the heartbeat law, saying that rapes aren’t an exception to this bill, because victims have six weeks, just like everyone else.
Another popular question is if pregnant people may get an abortion out of state without legal repercussions. The answer is yes. If a Texas citizen travels out of state to receive an abortion, there is currently no punishment. The punishment only extends to citizens who receive an abortion, and any person or corporation that may help them attain an abortion. Essentially, anyone who knows a citizen who underwent an abortion in Texas may sue that citizen and anyone involved.
Many politicians, and individuals, that have pro-choice ideals, meaning they support a pregnant persons right to choose whether or not to continue the pregnancy, have expressed their disagreement with this bill. In order to support their opinion and pro-choice beliefs, many politicians use the rights of Roe V. Wade, which is a 1973 Supreme Court Bill that gave women the right to choose to have an abortion under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The Biden Administration has already developed plans to sue Texas over this new bill, in order to protect a woman’s right to choose.