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Inspired by Koria Horrocks.
Last week, Texas Senate Bill Number 8 (also known as SB8, “the Texas Heartbeat Law,” or “the Texas Abortion Ban”) went into effect.
There’s been a lot of confusion about the bill and a lot of wild claims made about it—by pro-life advocates and pro-abortion advocates alike.
We’re here to help you discern fact from fiction, mainly using the primary sources of the actual bill and the Supreme Court’s official statement about the bill.
Without further ado, let’s play a round of true or false!
True or False
1. “The Supreme Court said they won’t stop the law, so Roe v. Wade is essentially meaningless now.”
On September 1, 2021, the Supreme Court simply stated they would not block the law from going into effect.
This neither overturns Roe v. Wade nor prevents SB8 from being taken under question if a person fights a specific case of SB8 being enforced and if it goes through local and state courts up to the federal level.
If that happens, the law will likely be essentially pitted up against Roe v. Wade (and/or subsequent cases Doe v. Bolton/Planned Parenthood v. Casey). We do not know what the result would be if that happens.
2. “This law will virtually end abortion in Texas.”
KIND OF FALSE
Like it or hate it, this law will not fully end abortion in Texas.
The law prohibits selective abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, with medical exceptions. (An unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected at approximately 6 weeks’ gestation.*)
While pro-life individuals crow that abortion is virtually over in Texas now, abortion advocates are outraged, citing that many women do not even know they are pregnant until at or near 6 weeks’ gestation.
However, most women will miss a period and can take a test to discover if they are pregnant at about 4 weeks’ gestation. Pregnancy tests are highly accessible and affordable, and many can even detect pregnancy slightly before the first day of a missed period. Those two weeks certainly makes a short window, but there is some time for a woman to seek an abortion.
Surely, this will decrease the number of abortions in Texas. It may even drop profitability sufficiently for many Texas abortion facilities to close entirely. Of course, we may see many of those abortion numbers simply shift out of state, where many women may travel later in pregnancy to acquire abortions.
And whether you like it or not, remember, abortion at later stages is still legal in the case of danger to the life of the mother.
*Keep in mind that 6 weeks’ gestation tracks weeks from the first day of the pregnant woman’s last period. This is typically about 2 weeks longer than time from conception.
3. “Women can be sued by their attacker for having an abortion after being raped.”
This is false on two accounts.
Firstly, SB8 specifically restricts the father from suing anyone for the abortion of his child if he caused the pregnancy through rape of any kind.
Secondly, the mother who gets the abortion cannot be sued according to this law—regardless of whether she was a victim of rape.
4. “Texas women will spend life in jail for getting an abortion.”
Again, this law does not allow anyone to sue the woman who gets the abortion.
Also, if a defendant loses in court under this law, the only punishment is monetary, starting at $10,000 per abortion performed or abetted. Jail time is off the table for anyone involved.
Like it or not, it is not in the interest of most pro-life activists to punish the mother; many recognize the mother as a secondary victim of abortion.
5. “The Texas law punishes doctors for treating women who miscarry or have an ectopic pregnancy.”
(Similarly, many also claim that women themselves will be punished in these cases.)
This is simply not true. This myth may stem from misunderstanding of the terms “medical abortion,” “spontaneous abortion,” and “elective abortion.” Texas law legislates elective abortions. Neither miscarriages nor removal of ectopic pregnancies are considered elective abortions.
For more on this topic, read “‘Abortion:’ The Moral, Medical, and Legal Definitions”.
6. “This bill makes no exceptions for women whose lives are in danger if they carry to term.”
SB8 makes literally one exception: a woman may get an abortion past heartbeat detection if a physician determines her life is in danger if she continues with the pregnancy.
Many pro-life people feel the need to make legal exceptions for cases of danger to the life of the mother. It is worth noting that there are times when a pregnancy must end before the child reaches term, but that does not mean those women need abortion. Rather than kill the baby and then deliver it, the doctor can induce labor, perform an early delivery, and attempt to help the baby survive. For more on this topic, read “Misconception Monday: Exceptions for the Life of the Mother”.
7. “This law forces a woman who is a victim of rape to carry her rapist’s baby to term.”
KIND OF TRUE
If a woman conceives as a result of rape, SB8 does require her to carry the baby to term if she does not abort the child before a heartbeat can be detected. She may still abort the child if it happens before the heartbeat can be detected.
8. “The Texas law does not allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest.”
The only exception this law makes to the heartbeat-detection cutoff is in cases of danger to the life of the mother.
Many pro-life people feel the need to make legal exceptions for cases of rape and incest. It is worth noting that giving a woman who has been raped an abortion does not un-rape her; it inflicts further trauma on her and punishes the child for the father’s crime. For more on this topic, read “Misconception Monday: We Need Abortion for Cases of Rape”.
9. “Now, an Uber driver can be sued for transporting a woman to her abortion.”
Anyone who performs, aids, or abets an abortion in Texas can be sued according to this law. If an Uber driver takes someone to a Planned Parenthood for an illegal abortion, even without knowing for sure what was going to happen, they could be sued. (For the driver to be judged not guilty, they would need to prove they had been under the specific impression that an illegal abortion was not going to occur.)
Whether or not you agree with this particular detail of SB8, there is some logic to it. Presumably, it is based on the principle that citizens have a responsibility to not perform, aid, or abet other dangerous crimes, such as murder, and views abortion is a similarly heinous crime.
10. “This law is bad because it doesn’t go far enough.”
Some pro-life voices dislike this law because, they claim, it further cedes ground to the pro-abortion side. These voices say we need to keep our eye on the prize and settle for nothing less than complete abortion abolition.
Well, we agree that the goal should be zero abortion—but that doesn’t mean we aren’t happy when fewer babies are killed.
That said, an honorable person can agree or disagree with the statement above.
11. “This law isn’t enforced by the state but by civilians, like a citizen’s arrest.”
Only non-law enforcement and non-government-employed citizens may enforce this law. A citizen may bring civil action against anyone they suspect to have performed, aided, or abetted an abortion. If they win in court, they will be awarded monetary value of at least $10,000 plus legal fees.
There is no actual citizen’s arrest or jail time involved.
12. “The way this law is enforced makes it a bad one.”
Again, only non-government-employed citizens may enforce this law. A citizen may bring civil action against anyone they suspect to have performed, aided, or abetted an abortion. If they win in court, they will be awarded a minimum of $10,000 per abortion plus legal costs incurred.
Some feel that this method of law enforcement adds to “cancel culture” and “Karen” behavior, and that it sets a dangerous precedent for future laws.
According to the Supreme Court September 1st statement, the very way this law is enforced is why it was not immediately struck down by the Supreme Court in the first place. Putting the responsibility of enforcement on the shoulders of each citizen instead of on the state lent the bill at least temporary protection from Roe v. Wade.
Like it or not, this creative approach to making abortion punishable has made the biggest headway in any state’s attempt to criminalize abortion.
You may not like how SB8 is enforced, and it might even lead you to dislike the law entirely. You can decide whether you think it makes it a bad law.
You don’t have to love everything about this law. However, we generally commend our Texas neighbors for thinking outside the box to do something to save as many lives as possible.
At this time, we feel that the potential benefit of saving tens of thousands of innocent babies’ lives each year outweigh the drawbacks of this law.
We pray for even more lives to be saved there and especially here in our home state.
Here are just a few other common claims that have cropped up that are not truly about the Texas Heartbeat Law but are simply branches of other common faulty arguments.
“[Texas/you] just want[s] to control women.”
“Outlawing abortion just outlaws safe abortions.”
“The Texas foster care system is going to be overloaded with unwanted children.”
“Abortion is a constitutional right.”
“The Texas ban disproportionately hurts people of color.”
Pro-Life Utah is a nonprofit organization committed to saving unborn babies’ lives and supporting their mothers, both through sharing truth and by providing tangible assistance when needed. Contact us to learn more about us and how you can get involved, or consider becoming a monthly donor.