Texas Heartbeat Act

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The Texas Heartbeat Act is an act of the Texas Legislature. It was introduced as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) and House Bill 1515 (HB 1515) on March 11, 2021, and was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on May 19, 2021. The law took effect on September 1, 2021. It is the first time a state has successfully imposed a six-week abortion ban since Roe v. Wade, and the first abortion restriction to rely on enforcement by private individuals through civil lawsuits, rather than by the government through criminal or civil enforcement. The Act establishes a system in which members of the public can sue anyone who performs or facilitates an illegal abortion for a minimum of $10,000 in statutory damages.

Quotes[edit]

This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century. ~ Joe Biden
If a claimant in an S.B.8 case prevails, they are entitled to ... at least $10,000 per abortion, with no apparent maximum amount
We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act. If you have an incident, concern, or questions, please contact the FBI ~ U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland
Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said on CNN that while he’s “pro-life,” what he “doesn’t like to see” is letting “everyone being able to tattle” and the fact that under SB 8, private citizens are “deputized to enforce this abortion law” against even potentially Uber drivers that transport a Texan to their abortion.
Part of what makes SB 8 such a bizarre law is that it does not permit any state official to enforce it. Rather, the statute provides that it “shall be enforced exclusively through . . . private civil actions.” ~ Ian Millhiser
Doctors who provide medical care that, at least for the time being, is still protected by decisions like Roe and Casey should not risk an unending wave of harassing lawsuits brought by people seeking to collect a bounty. ~ Ian Millhiser
Imagine, for example, that New York passed an SB 8-style law allowing private individuals to bring lawsuits seeking a $10,000 bounty against anyone who owns a gun. Or, for that matter, imagine if Texas passed a law permitting similar suits against anyone who criticizes the governor of Texas. ~ Ian Millhiser
The majority of people who are raped, and who are sexually assaulted, are assaulted by someone they know... people's uncles... teachers...family friends, and when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward... They don't want to re-traumatize themselves by going to court.~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
If a claimant in an S.B.8 case prevails, they are entitled to ... at least $10,000 per abortion, with no apparent maximum amount. ~ U.S. District Court for the Western Disctrict of Texas, Austin Division
  • The law amounts to a near-total ban on abortion procedures given that 85% to 90% of abortions occur after six weeks of pregnancy, and would likely force many clinics to close, the abortion-rights groups said. A majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in the United States, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Some 52% said it should be legal in most or all cases, with just 36% saying it should be illegal in most or all cases. But it remains a deeply polarizing issue...The law, signed on May 19, is unusual in that it prevents government officials from enforcing the ban, instead giving private citizens that power by enabling them to sue anyone who provides or "aids or abets" an abortion after six weeks. Citizens who win such lawsuits would be entitled to at least $10,000. Abortion providers say the law could lead to hundreds of costly lawsuits that would be logistically difficult to defend.
  • Texas law Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) has drawn significant criticism since going into effect last week, as the law bans abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected—a term medical experts have criticized as misleading—and has an exception only for medical emergencies.
  • Asked Tuesday about the law forcing rape and incest victims to carry their pregnancies to term, Abbott claimed the law “doesn’t require that at all” because it “provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.” Abbott’s comments Tuesday have sparked widespread opposition from abortion rights advocates. “Greg Abbott is lying” about rape victims still being able to get an abortion, former San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate Julian Castro tweeted Tuesday, while progressive group Ultraviolet said of Abbott’s comments, “Maybe if you don't understand basic biology you shouldn't legislate bodily autonomy away.”
  • Several Republicans including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) criticized Texas’ near-total ban on abortion Sunday because of its provision empowering private citizens to sue those who aid and abet abortions—potentially signaling the legal tactic could face resistance from within the GOP as more states plan to copy Texas’ law. The Maryland governor specifically pointed to the law’s “problem of bounties,” as the Texas law—known as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8)—says government officials cannot enforce the law, but rather directs private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion and stipulates they can earn at least $10,000 in damages if they win. Kinzinger said on CNN that while he’s “pro-life,” what he “doesn’t like to see” is letting “everyone being able to tattle” and the fact that under SB 8, private citizens are “deputized to enforce this abortion law” against even potentially Uber drivers that transport a Texan to their abortion. The GOP lawmaker also opposes the fact the law does not include exceptions in the case of rape and incest, though SB 8 does allow abortions in the case of medical emergencies. Former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who identifies as “pro-life,” said on Meet the Press she views the Texas law as “bad policy and it’s bad law,” agreeing with a Wall Street Journal op-ed that described the law as a “blunder” that “sets an awful precedent that conservatives should hate.”
  • Several Republicans including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) criticized Texas’ near-total ban on abortion Sunday because of its provision empowering private citizens to sue those who aid and abet abortions—potentially signaling the legal tactic could face resistance from within the GOP as more states plan to copy Texas’ law. The Maryland governor specifically pointed to the law’s “problem of bounties,” as the Texas law—known as Senate Bill 8 (SB 8)—says government officials cannot enforce the law, but rather directs private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion and stipulates they can earn at least $10,000 in damages if they win. Kinzinger said on CNN that while he’s “pro-life,” what he “doesn’t like to see” is letting “everyone being able to tattle” and the fact that under SB 8, private citizens are “deputized to enforce this abortion law” against even potentially Uber drivers that transport a Texan to their abortion. The GOP lawmaker also opposes the fact the law does not include exceptions in the case of rape and incest, though SB 8 does allow abortions in the case of medical emergencies. Former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who identifies as “pro-life,” said on Meet the Press she views the Texas law as “bad policy and it’s bad law,” agreeing with a Wall Street Journal op-ed that described the law as a “blunder” that “sets an awful precedent that conservatives should hate.”
  • While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248. The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now. The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities. We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act. If you have an incident, concern, or questions, please contact the FBI
    • Merrick Garland, "Statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Regarding Texas SB8", (September 6, 2021)
  • We turn to a major setback for reproductive rights. As of midnight last night, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Texas law to go into effect that bans abortion after six weeks. No other six-week ban has ever gone into effect in the United States. At six weeks, many people don’t even know they’re pregnant... The new Texas law is unique. It empowers private citizens — not government officials — to file a civil lawsuit against patients, medical workers, or even a patient’s family or friends who, quote, “aid and abet” an abortion — or a taxi driver who drives a woman to a clinic. If a case is successful, the person who filed it is awarded at least $10,000, plus attorneys’ fees.
  • Today, a new law takes effect in Texas that directly violates the precedent established in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. This all-out assault on reproductive health effectively bans abortion for the nearly 7 million Texans of reproductive age."
  • Abbott is claiming that because the law allows for abortion up to six weeks, it’s not forcing anyone to do anything. As doctors, people who’ve been pregnant before, and people who’ve bothered to read a book on the subject before crafting legislation on it have noted, by the time a person misses her first period, she’s already roughly four weeks pregnant. That means that under Texas law, someone would have no more than two weeks, not six, to determine she’s pregnant and decide whether or not to get an abortion. Even in the case of people who are actively trying to get pregnant, that window can narrow even further for numerous reasons including if they have irregular cycles. Usually, then, one would make an appointment with a doctor to confirm the pregnancy, and as Abbott may or may not know, health care in American is not the greatest, so she may not be able to be seen for several weeks. And that hugely generous two weeks is not only a joke for many people actively trying to have a child, but for the majority of people who are not.
  • The way it’s written, a Texan who objects to SB 8 may have no one they can sue to stop it from taking effect.
    For one, abortion rights plaintiffs can’t sue their state directly. The ordinary rule is that when someone sues a state in order to block a state law, they cannot sue the state directly. States benefit from a doctrine known as “sovereign immunity,” which typically prevents lawsuits against the state itself.
    But they also can’t really follow the same path that most citizens who want to stop laws do. That path relies on Ex parte Young (1908), a decision in which the Supreme Court established that someone raising a constitutional challenge to a state law may sue the state officer charged with enforcing that law — and obtain a court order preventing that officer from enforcing it. So, for example, if Texas passed a law requiring the state medical board to strip all abortion providers of their medical licenses, a plaintiff could sue the medical board. If a state passed a law requiring state police to blockade abortion clinics, a plaintiff might sue the chief of the state’s police force.
    Part of what makes SB 8 such a bizarre law is that it does not permit any state official to enforce it. Rather, the statute provides that it “shall be enforced exclusively through . . . private civil actions.”
    Under the law, “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state,” may bring a private lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, or against anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” Plaintiffs who prevail in such suits shall receive at least $10,000 from the defendant.
    SB 8, in other words, attempts to make an end run around Young by preventing state officials from directly enforcing the law. Again, Young established that a plaintiff may sue a state official charged with enforcing a state law in order to block enforcement of that law. But if no state official is charged with enforcing the law, there’s no one to sue in order to block the law. Checkmate, libs.
    It’s worth noting that this tactic cannot prevent anyone from ever challenging SB 8. Now that the law has taken effect, abortion providers (plus anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion, a vague term that is not defined in the statute) will undoubtedly be bombarded with lawsuits seeking the $10,000 bounty authorized by the new state law. These defendants will then be able to argue in court that they should not be required to pay this bounty because it is unconstitutional.
    But they will do so under the threat of having to pay such a bounty to anyone who brings a lawsuit against them. Even if abortion providers prevail in all of these suits, moreover, they will still have to pay for lawyers to defend themselves in court. And the suits seeking a bounty under SB 8 will likely be numerous and endless, because literally “any person” who is not a Texas state officer can file such a suit.
    If SB 8 remains in effect, any abortion providers who do remain operational are likely to be crushed by a wave of lawsuits that they cannot afford to litigate.
  • If you are confused by this morass of procedural aggression, countermeasures to procedural aggression, dueling appeals, and court orders forbidding other court orders, you should be. This is not how the judiciary is supposed to function.
    Litigants who face an imminent risk of harm unless a state law is blocked should be given an opportunity to challenge that law before they violate it and risk legal consequences. Appeals courts should wait for lower courts to decide a case before they reach a different conclusion than the lower court might reach. Doctors who provide medical care that, at least for the time being, is still protected by decisions like Roe and Casey should not risk an unending wave of harassing lawsuits brought by people seeking to collect a bounty.
    And yet, the justices effectively rewrote the nation’s abortion jurisprudence without receiving full briefing, hearing oral argument, or taking more than a couple of days to even consider the case.
    Just as significantly, blessed a tactic that could be used to undermine virtually any constitutional right. Imagine, for example, that New York passed an SB 8-style law allowing private individuals to bring lawsuits seeking a $10,000 bounty against anyone who owns a gun. Or, for that matter, imagine if Texas passed a law permitting similar suits against anyone who criticizes the governor of Texas.
  • It’s the most extreme that’s ever gone into effect. And as you pointed out, this morning, unfortunately, in Texas, the clinics can’t be open to provide abortions any later than six weeks. And 85% of people seeking abortions in Texas do so after six weeks, since many people don’t even know they’re pregnant yet at six weeks. So, this is the most extreme law to go into effect. We have gone to the Supreme Court. We filed papers right up to 8:00 last night. We are waiting for the court to act. And it really should step in. I mean, what Texas has done his just blanket unconstitutional. It is not for the state of Texas to overturn Roe v. Wade... Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. It has been for 50 years.
    There is no question that a ban on abortion at six weeks violates the Constitution
  • For your listeners in Texas, if you are in this position, do call your local clinics... they are open, because there is this small period in which you can get an abortion, and they do want to help their patients. So, of course, before you do anything, call your local clinic. And secondly, you can leave the state. They can’t criminalize you leaving the state to have an abortion. But, of course, for so many people, they don’t have the means to do that. Right? You have to not only have the financial means to leave the state. You have to be able to take time off from work. You have to potentially have child care. Most women in Texas who have abortions do have children. And there’s a whole set of circumstances that are going to make that very difficult.
  • The majority of people who are raped, and who are sexually assaulted, are assaulted by someone they know. These aren’t just predators who are walking around the streets at night. They are people's uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends, and when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward. And second of all, when a victim comes forward, they don't necessarily want to bring their case into the carceral system. They don't want to re-traumatize themselves by going to court. They don't necessarily all want to report a family friend to a police precinct, let alone in the immediate aftermath of the trauma of a sexual assault.
  • I woke up this morning...and I saw a story about this doctor, Dr. Braid. He's obviously a man of principle and courage and it just made me mad to see the trick bag they put him in and I just decided: I'm going to file a lawsuit. We're going to get an answer, I want to see what the law is.
    • Oscar Stilley, a former lawyer convicted of tax fraud "[21/09/20/texas-doctor-sued-arkansas-man-violating-texas-abortion-ban/5790369001/ Texas doctor who violated abortion ban sued by Arkansas man]]" (September 20, 2021)
  • Abbott's response is misleading, at best. The law's stipulation banning abortions after six weeks does not necessarily mean six weeks from the incident, in the case of rape or incest victims. Doctors date pregnancies from the first day of the individual's last menstrual cycle not from ovulation or "conception." As a result, under the new Texas law, those seeking abortions have less than six weeks to do so. Abbott attempted to caveat his comments Tuesday by highlighting that "rape is a crime," though the bill has no exception for it. Under SB8, the only possible exemption is for "medical emergency." Otherwise, abortion is prohibited when a fetal heartbeat is detected, though the flickering identified as a fetal heartbeat on an ultrasound at that time is really just electrical activity and the sound is made by the ultrasound machine itself. Even at six weeks, doctors say an ultrasound is not detecting a functional heart. And it's worth noting that the fetal heartbeat used as the abortion cutoff in this bill often occurs before people know they are pregnant.
    Jennifer Kerns, associate professor at University of California San Francisco and an OB-GYN, told CNN, "Saying that someone has six weeks to access abortion is completely misleading. When we say six weeks pregnant what that actually means is six weeks from the last menstrual period... So it doesn't actually mean the person has been pregnant for six weeks.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is again under fire for his state's restrictive new abortion law, after falsely claiming it does not force victims of rape or incest to give birth even though it prohibits abortions after about six weeks — which is before many people even know they're pregnant... Abbott was asked about forcing a rape or incest victim to carry their pregnancy to term. He misleadingly replied that the law does not require that. "...it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion, and so, for one, it doesn't provide that," Abbott said... In fact, the countdown for those six weeks starts from the first day of a person's last period (not the "expected" period that was missed), leaving many with only about one or two weeks to end the pregnancy, if that, under the new law.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., slammed Abbott in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, saying he lacks basic knowledge of biology. "I'm sorry we have to break down Biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed him before in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And two weeks late on your period ... can happen if you're stressed, if your diet changes or for really no reason at all. So you don't have six weeks."
  • Ocasio-Cortez also took issue with Abbott's comments on rape, noting that the majority of people who are raped or sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone whom they know. The anti-sexual violence nonprofit RAINN says 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. "These aren't just predators that are walking around the streets at night. They are people's uncles, they are teachers, they are family friends, and when something like that happens, it takes a very long time, first of all, for any victim to come forward," Ocasio-Cortez added. "And second of all,
  • The whole case [Larkin v. Grendel's Den, Inc. (1982)] arose because of this arbitrary power that was given to a private entity... the Supreme Court said you cannot give governmental power over peoples` lives or liberty to private bodies, that have no public accountability

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