Texas Heartbeat Act


Isabelle Anderson, Staff Writer

Disclaimer: Mature topics discussed

On May 19th, 2021 word spread across the world about Texas’ new law passed, Senate Bill 8 (more commonly known as the Heartbeat Bill) that would take effect on September 1st, 2021. There has been ton of controversy over the law, it has acted as a catalyst for pro-choice and pro-life protests across the country. But what exactly is the Texas Heartbeat Act? Why is it causing so much controversy” 

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was the case going against Texas’ laws which made abortion illegal unless it were to save the woman’s life. It ruled that the state’s laws were unconstitutional and curtailed the rights of Roe’s personal privacy protected by the first, fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendments. (Oyez) However the bill (Texas Gov Documents) claimed that Texas “never repealed…the state statutes enacted before the ruling in Roe v. Wade…that prohibit and criminzalize abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger.” 

The law is NOT a complete ban on abortions, instead Section 171.204 discusses the prohibited abortion of an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat and in part A states “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child as required by Section 171.203 or failed to perform a test to detect a fetal heartbeat.” In simple terms, as long as a heartbeat is detected, a woman is not allowed to have an abortion. However, fetal heartbeat can be detected in as little as 3-4 weeks after contraception and 5-6 weeks after the first day of the menstrual period through a transvaginal ultrasound (Baby Center). As a woman myself, I know that one’s period cycle could be very irregular, and you may be late for weeks and think nothing of it. Therefore, many women wouldn’t even know about being pregnant for 3-6 weeks.  In fact, in a New York Times article quotes that “Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, lead for equity transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explained that  ‘It is extremely possible and very common for people to get to the six-week mark and not know they are pregnant’”. For women in Texas who would have just found out they were pregnant at the 6 week mark, it would already be too late for them to get an abortion. 

One of the most alarming parts of the Bill is that victims of rape and incest are not exceptions. The Texas Heartbeat Bill doesn’t mention anywhere  that abortions are allowed in the case of rape and incest. The only exceptions are for medical emergency which is explained in Section 171.205, “A physician performing or inducing  an abortion under this section shall make written notations in the pregnant woman’s medical record of the physician’s belief that a medical emergency necessitated the abortion.” The bill is vague on what defines a “medical emergency” and when a woman’s health would be at risk. Even though it isn’t risky, it is disgusting to force a woman to have to birth her rapist’s baby or birth a baby derived from incest. 

Apart from Texas, other states such as Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi and Kentucky, have passed heartbeat laws according to the New York Times.  The average girl gets her period at 12 years old, meaning that she can then bear a child. Millions of women across these states are at risk of getting pregnant and not being able to get an abortion. I hope for a safer future, with more humane, thoughtful laws for women’s health so that people don’t have to resort to unsafe methods to prioritize their health and their life. 



NY TIMES https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/health/texas-abortion-law-facts.html

Senate Bill 8 Texas Government Documents https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HB01515I.htm

Baby Center https://www.babycenter.com/pregnancy/health-and-safety/when-can-i-hear-my-babys-heartbeat_10349811

Oyez https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18