Last week, 300 Texas attorneys authored an open letter asking Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and the Texas House to kill Senate Bill 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act.
SB 8, authored by Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and sponsored by Representative Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville), prohibits elective abortions after the preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable according to standard medical practice. The Heartbeat Act has the practical effect of banning all abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
Anti-Life attorneys claim the bill will “contravene the Texas Constitution and undermine long-standing rules and tenet of our civil legal system.” Despite this desperate anti-Life letter, the Speaker and the House have wisely rejected their plea and scheduled SB 8 for a floor debate and vote.
A Texas pro-abortion leader said that while their organization has seen Pro-Life Heartbeat Bills around the country in recent years, SB 8 “is uniquely worse than any of the other bills we’ve seen in other states.”
They are correct in that the Texas Heartbeat Bill is different than other Pro-Life efforts to protect preborn children. In addition to banning abortions after a detectable heartbeat, SB 8 also includes several reforms and legal tools to help the Pro-Life movement further bolster the ultimate goal of ending all elective abortion. These legal tools are what terrorify the pro-abortion attorneys, who shamelessly masquerade their support of abortion as a constitutional concern.
The pro-abortion attorneys identify several legal concerns regarding Senate Bill 8, including:
- Any Texan can sue to enforce SB 8;
- The abortionist and anyone who knowingly aids or abets an abortion in violation of Texas’ Pro-Life laws are liable to be sued except the mother;
- A Texan is permitted to bring a lawsuit in their home county; and
- Abortionists and those who aid or abet illegal abortions cannot infallibly rely on Roe v. Wade as an affirmative defense in a lawsuit.
Fact check: True!
For decades the abortion industry has weaponized the judicial system to transform America into an abortion mecca without input from democratic institutions.
Previously, if the abortion industry found the right Harvard and Yale Law School graduates—and cleverly concealed their true beliefs long enough—then they controlled an unassailable backstop against which Pro-Life laws could find no momentum.
The Pro-Life movement has realized that the abortion industry plays the game with a stacked deck. So now the abortion industry’s lawyers are fighting to ensure SB 8 dies before being signed into law.
One can condense these legal objections into a simple explanation: these attorneys really, really loathe SB 8.
The primary purpose of the bill is to protect preborn human beings with heartbeats, but the bill accomplishes even more, including:
- Clarification on sovereign immunity: The Texas Heartbeat Act clarifies that the State of Texas, all political subdivisions, and all elected officials in the state maintain sovereign immunity against all legal action brought against the act. Because SB 8 does not authorize criminal penalties or administrative action by public officials, the abortion industry cannot sue them. This still leaves civil remedies enforceable immediately.
- Severability: The Texas Heartbeat Act specifies that every part of the bill is severable from each other. If a court finds any application of any provision of the bill unconstitutional then all other applications are “severed” and remain unaffected. Moreover, the bill asserts that any judicial action against a bill only prohibits the enforcement of the unconstitutional provisions or applications.
- Attorney’s Fees: SB 8 also amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, clarifying that all persons, entities, attorneys, and law firms who challenge a Pro-Life law are individually liable for costs and attorney’s fees. The section further specifies that a party is considered prevailing when a court dismisses a claim against a Pro-Life law and outlines the process for the prevailing party to recover costs and attorney’s fees. Defendants may not recover attorneys fees under SB 8.
- Construction of abortion laws: The bill also clarifies that new Pro-Life laws have not and do not repeal any other Pro-Life laws unless the new law explicitly states such. Furthermore, Pro-Life laws do not restrict the ability of political subdivisions to regulate or restrict abortion.
Each of these reforms is a legal safeguard for Pro-Life laws in Texas. After the battle leaves the Texas Capitol, the next stop is the courthouse. The abortion industry is afraid of these provisions in SB 8 which will give Pro-Life attorneys the tools to more effectively defend and enforce Pro-Life laws.
Elsewhere, the customary forces are sounding the alarm, and they are concentrating their criticisms on these legal tools. The Texas House Women’s Caucus summarized SB 8 this way: a “logistical and fiscal nightmare for Texas courts.” More accurately, Senate Bill 8 is a logistical and fiscal nightmare for the abortion industry, which is precisely why their opposition is uniquely desperate.