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Gov. Abbott Expected To Sign 'Heartbeat Bill' Into Law, Banning Abortions At 6 Weeks

Greg Abbott
Eric Gay
/
Associated Press
Gov. Greg Abbott

State lawmakers gave final approval to SB 8, a bill that would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill makes an exception for medical emergencies, but not for cases of rape or incest.

The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who said he intends to sign it into law. In other states, similar "heartbeat bills" have been passed but have been mostly blocked by the courts.

The new legislation will allow any person to file a civil lawsuit against an abortion provider or anyone who helps a person get an abortion.

Opponents say this legislation is too broad and could open the door for legal harassment and unlimited lawsuits.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) spoke out against the legislation on the House floor last week.

“What damages are you suffering and what type of money should be paid when you had nothing to do with whatever happened between the doctor, this woman, this entire situation?” Crockett said.

Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) raised a concern that these lawsuits could become a tactic to solicit $10,000 from a stranger without having any understanding of their situation.

“It’s a lottery, basically,” Collier said.

The measure also faced opposition from lawyers, doctors and religious leaders across the state.

An open letter signed by members of the Texas legal community mentioned concerns about the broad nature of the bill.

"These bills add as potential defendants any person who merely formed an intent to help a patient, which could include donors and supporters of abortion funds and clinics, and could make individuals liable before they took any action at all," the document states.

The bill’s author Sen. Brian Hughes (R-Mineola) said the measure is about protecting life. Abortion rights advocates say the bill is one of the most restrictive in the country.

Got a tip? Email Katya Bandouil at kbandouil@KERA.org. You can follow Katya on Twitter @kat372.

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Katya Bandouil is a 2021 legislative fellow for The Texas Newsroom. She has interned at Austin Monthly, Austin Woman, and the Texas Capitol. Katya is also the social media editor at the University of Texas at Austin's student publication, The Daily Texan. Katya is studying international relations, journalism, and French. She is expected to graduate in 2021.