U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Wednesday, Sept. 1 not to block the new Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy while legal challenges to that law proceed in lower courts.
The Texas law is the most significant in the country because it bans abortion when a heartbeat can be detected and provides that private individuals may bring a legal cause of action against the abortionist and anyone who helps facilitate the killing of unborn children.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “No freedom is more precious than life itself. Starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion. Texas will always defend the right to life.”
SB 8, known as the “Texas Heartbeat Act” abolishes elective abortions when the preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable using methods according to standard medical practice. The bill makes an exception allowing for abortions in the case of a medical emergency but not for rape or incest. It would be enforced by private citizens empowered to sue abortion providers and others who help someone get an abortion after six weeks. Those private citizens would not need to have a connection to an abortion provider or a person seeking an abortion and would not need to be Texas residents.
The law is part of a broader nationwide effort to protect human life. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy. U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the fall regarding the challenge to Mississippi’s law, which prohibits abortion after 15 weeks.
SB 8 was authored by Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes who said, “This bill says for the little baby inside her mother’s womb, if there is a heartbeat detected, that little baby will be protected.”
Texas House Representative Shelby Slawson, one of the sponsors, shared her own personal story. She said doctors advised her mother to get an abortion because of a potential medical problem with the unborn baby.
Slawson said, “The complications and those dire prognoses continued, the back-and-forth to the doctor continued, and that heartbeat continued. And then one Tuesday in May, that new mom greeted her newborn. This surprisingly normal baby, marveling at 10 fingers and 10 toes and wisps of red hair.”
Liberty Counsel founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court did not block the Texas Heartbeat Act. It’s another win for the life of the precious unborn.”
The 5-4 ruling denied a petition to enjoin a Texas heartbeat law after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the law. The Supreme Court’s narrow ruling now allows the ban to go into effect, which essentially bans abortions in Texas after six weeks gestation.
Tennessee Right to Life is hopeful that the hesitation by the high court to intervene in the case could be a good signal for the upcoming Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The court has indicated that in Dobbs they will be looking at various state pre-viability bans, such as the Texas heartbeat law. In doing so, the court would almost certainly have to re-visit the Roe v. Wade decision which could be the “trigger” needed to ban abortion in Tennessee.
In 2019, Tennessee General Assembly passed a trigger law, the Human Life Protection Act, which states that if Roe is overturned in part or in whole, then the pre-1973 laws would be restored and abortion would be banned except to save the life of the mother.
Stacy Dunn, president of Tennessee Right to Life, said, “Tennessee’s pro-life legislators planned well for such a moment as this. ”
Will Brewer, legal counsel and lobbyist for Tennessee Right to Life went further to explain that, while the Texas decision is good news, Tennessee is in an even better position to ban abortions upon the overturning of Roe.
“Tennessee’s law that resembles the Texas law is still in the midst of litigation; however, Tennessee has actually passed a law to ban all abortions immediately once Roe is overturned,” said Brewer. “Therefore, once the U.S. Supreme Court uses the Mississippi case to overturn Roe, Tennessee will ban all abortions even before 6 weeks. We welcome this news from Texas and what it could mean for Tennessee.”