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Journey of The Heartbeat Act and Pro-Abortion Pushback 

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Legislators hold their hands in the shape of a heart at the SB 8 bill signing ceremony. | Image from Governor's Office

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Texas’ new anti-abortion law has sent ripples through the nation, sparking protests and rallies. The controversial legislation has bounced its way through multiple courts, with varying results. Follow the timeline from the legislation being signed into law to current status and what is to come:

June 6th, 2021:

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signs the Heartbeat Act, setting abortion debates in motion in Texas and nationwide. This bill bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which generally occurs six weeks into a pregnancy, except for women experiencing a medical emergency.

SB 8 also allows individual citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who aids or abets a woman seeking an abortion for personal gains of at least $10,000.  

  

September 1st, 2021:

SB 8 or “The Heartbeat Act” becomes active law in Texas.  

 

October 2nd, 2021:

Nationwide Women’s March events draw attention to pro-abortion concerns about SB 8; these protestors are met by anti-abortion activists defending SB 8. In Dallas, hundreds of protestors gathered and chanted, “We as women have a right to make a choice. This is our bodies.” Protest organizer, Soroya Santos, said that the $10,000 lawsuit provision in SB 8 would make “bounty hunters out of anyone in the United States,” according to Fox 4.

But, not everyone thinks badly of the lawsuit provision. Anti-abortion activist and Texan local Vianca Rodrigues felt the bill had many misconceptions, including people believing civilians could introduce lawsuits resulting in criminal charges and incarceration of pregnant women seeking abortions, which is not a provision in the legislation. She defended the lawsuit provision. “The bill is unique and probably one of the most restrictive against abortions, no doubt about that. But, it allowed for lawsuits to take place civilly in the courts rather than criminally,” she told Dallas Express.   

  

October 6th, 2021:

Judge Pitman issues a late evening decision that temporarily blocks SB 8. Several of the nearly two dozen abortion providers in Texas begin administering abortions regardless of heartbeat detection, taking advantage of the temporary halt of the Heartbeat Act. Anti-abortionists weren’t discouraged by the almost expected news of the injunction.

“The judge blocking the bill simply means that Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice activists have successfully garnered attention on the matter to allow a temporary pause while the case is litigated, which comes as no surprise, considering the amount of money the left typically tends to have to invest/fund causes like these. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they have won,” Rodrigues told Dallas Express.  

   

October 7th, 2021:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton files an appeal against Judge Pitman’s decision.   

  

October 8th, 2021:

The Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturns Judge Pitman’s block of SB 8, and SB 8 is reinstated as Texan law. The US Department of Justice upholds their standing that SB 8 is a state-sanctioned attack on the constitutional rights of Texan Women. Attorney General Paxton has until Thursday, October 14th, to respond to the DOJ’s latest arguments against SB 8.  

  

Overall impact:

Since SB 8 came into effect, over 300 Texan women have crossed the border of Oklahoma to continue seeking abortions, according to PBS. Oklahoma abortion providers are working overtime to meet the increased demand created by the existing Oklahoma residents and new Texan patients seeking the procedure in their state.

A Vox contributor, Anna North, explained the impact of the bill on abortion seeking women in Texas, “SB 8 is forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies or leave the state to receive care while potentially incurring significant costs for travel, lodging, and childcare, in addition to lost wages from missed work.”  

On the other side, anti-abortion groups are heralding SB 8 as crucial lifesaving legislation. Compared to abortion statistics last year, Texas has seen a 70% decrease in abortions performed.

Those with an anti-abortion perspective argue that this indicates SB 8 is working as a deterrent to abortions. Additionally, the anti-abortion side is heralding the 5th circuit court’s decision to place a stay on Judge Pitman’s blocking of SB 8.

“Immediately after the stay was issued, Texas abortion centers began canceling abortions scheduled for Saturday, which is often the busiest day at abortion facilities where the highest number of babies lose their lives,” according to LifeNews. The Texas Right to Life Director Kimberlyn Swartz estimated that “The Texas Heartbeat Act” has already prevented about 1000 abortions a day in a statement to LifeNews. 

 

Note: This article was updated on October 13, 2021 at 1:19 pm.

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