AUSTIN, Texas — On Wednesday, Sept. 1, the "Texas Heartbeat Act" (Senate Bill 8 or SB 8) took effect at midnight. The law is the most intense restriction on abortion access since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country.
Almost 24 hours after it took effect, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against putting the law on hold.
Texas is the only state to outlaw abortions after six weeks. At least 12 other states have passed similar legislation, but none of that legislation has taken effect due to legal challenges.
The passage of the Texas Heartbeat Act and the Supreme Court's decision has raised many questions.
What is the "heartbeat bill" in Texas?
To briefly lay out the new law, the Texas Heartbeat Act bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically at six weeks gestation and before most women know they are pregnant. There is an exception for medical emergencies that put a woman's health at risk, but there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
The law also allows almost anyone to sue a Texas doctor who performs or has an intent to perform an abortion or anyone who aides a woman in receiving an abortion. Private citizens who successfully sue over violations of the law will be awarded at least $10,000.
The new law states that a man who impregnates a woman through rape or incest cannot file a lawsuit.
When does the heartbeat bill go into effect in Texas?
The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect at midnight on Sept. 1, 2021.
Who passed the heartbeat bill in Texas?
Senate Bill 8 was passed by the 87th Texas Legislature this year. The bill passed in the Texas Senate in March and was then sent to the Texas House. The House passed the bill in early May and it was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. Abbott signed the bill into law on May 19, with the law set to go into effect on Sept. 1.
The bill was authored by 17 Texas lawmakers and was co-authored by 69 others. A list of the authors and co-authors of the bill can be found here on the State's website.
When does a baby have a heartbeat?
A fetal heartbeat can typically be detected at six weeks gestation. Most women are not aware of their pregnancy at this point.
Does the heartbeat bill have exceptions?
The law does not make an exception for survivors of rape or incest who become pregnant as a result of the crime against them. It only allows an exception for a medical emergency when a mother’s life is in danger.
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