Abbott Signs ‘Heartbeat’ Bill Allowing Texans To Sue Abortion Providers

Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed an abortion law Wednesday morning that will prohibit Texas clinics from performing or inducing abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected and open up abortion providers to lawsuits. 

According to The Texas Tribune, the law contains a “first-of-its-kind legal provision” that allows private citizens to file civil suits against abortion clinics over alleged violations, instead of relying on the state to enforce the ban. It will go into effect in September. 

“It’s a very unique law and it’s a very clever law,” Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, told the Tribune. “Planned Parenthood can’t go to court and sue Attorney General [Ken] Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute. They have to basically sit and wait to be sued.”

A group of 200 physicians, in an open letter, voiced opposition to the bill last month, saying it would open them up to “frivolous lawsuits,” reports Reuters. “Regardless of our personal beliefs about abortion, as licensed physicians in Texas, we implore you to not weaponize the judicial branch against us to make a political point,” wrote the physicians.

Under the new law, formally called Texas Bill SB 8, physicians must test for a fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion and “may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child.”

Abbott, a Republican, said Wednesday that the abortion law will ensure “the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives, and that’s exactly what the Texas legislature did this session. They worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill,” said Abbott during remarks at a Wednesday bill signing. 

Under the text of the new law, exceptions to the abortion ban are allowed when the physician determines that a “medical emergency exists.” In these specific cases, “the physician who performs or induces the abortion shall execute a written document that certifies the abortion is necessary due to a medical emergency and specifies the woman ’s medical condition requiring the abortion.”

Diana Gómez, advocacy manager at Progress Texas, told CNN that the law “contains some of the most extreme abortion restrictions in the country.”

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund has called the law “dangerous” and vowed to fight it.

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