Texas Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act or “heartbeat bill” was passed in the state Senate 18-12 on Thursday, and awaits Abbott’s signature. The Republican governor has indicated that he will sign the bill on the same day.
“The Texas Legislature PASSES the heartbeat bill,” Abbot wrote on Twitter. “It’s now on its way to my desk for signing.”
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., one of two Democrats who voted in support of the bill, told The Dallas Morning News: “I hope that we can continue to do our best to make sure that those soon to be born babies have an opportunity to be born and live in our world.”
The Texas legislation differs from the other states’ heartbeat law in that the state of Texas is forbidden from enforcing the ban on abortion. Instead, private citizens—except for the individual who impregnated the woman through rape or incest—may file lawsuits against doctors, clinics, and anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this chapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this chapter.”
The bill does not include an exception for rape or incest besides in cases where the woman’s life is endangered.
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is novel in approach, allowing for citizens to hold abortionists accountable through private lawsuits,” pro-life group Texas Right to Life said in a statement, adding that the bill did not “punish women who obtain abortions.”
Planned Parenthood said that it will challenge the bill if it becomes law. The one billion dollar organization continued to operate as an “essential” business during the pandemic offering abortion and other services.
“We want to make one thing clear: Planned Parenthood will continue to fight for the RIGHT to abortion access, no matter what,” the organization said in a tweet.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas also said that it will fight the bill.
“Texas lawmakers have passed extreme legislation that would ban abortion as early as 6 weeks,” the group said. “But let’s be clear: this dangerous bill is unconstitutional, abortion in Texas is still legal, and we will keep fighting.”
There has been misinformation spread from some opponents of the bill, including the ACLU, which said that the bill allowed anyone to sue.
“This bill is so extreme it would allow anyone in the country—wherever they are—to bring a lawsuit in Texas for violating the law. This means a rapist who impregnates a teenager seeking an abortion in Texas, could sue the doctor who performs it,” the organization said in a statement.
The bill states the opposite of what opponents claim, “notwithstanding any other law, a civil action under this section may not be brought by a person who impregnated the abortion patient through an act of rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by Sections 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code.”
The bill will take effect on Sept. 1 if signed into law.