By Anna Visser, Right to Life of Michigan Director of Communication/Education
On September 1st at midnight, Texas became the first state in the nation to have its heartbeat law go into effect. To get to this point the law not only had to pass through the Texas Legislature, but also through the federal courts – a feat never before accomplished by a heartbeat abortion ban.
If you are wondering why heartbeat laws have never made it through the courts before and how this particular law managed to do so, you have come to the right place.
To begin with, Roe v. Wade prevents the states from enforcing their abortion laws, but that does not mean that the laws are gone. Think of it like a traffic barrier. The road is still there and perfectly operable, but a vehicle is temporarily prevented from traveling on it. This is the case here in Michigan where our 1846 abortion ban is still on the books; it is just that the state cannot enforce its own law.
This is the reason why before Texas, no state has been able to enforce their heartbeat laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey that states cannot enforce prohibitions on abortion before the point of viability. Right now, the youngest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks 5 days gestation – that is over fifteen weeks after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.
So, what is so special about the Texas heartbeat law that has allowed it to go into effect? Well, they found a glaring loophole. Texas made abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat illegal, but specifically prohibited any government officer from enforcing that law. Instead, the act clearly states, “the requirements of this subchapter shall be enforced exclusively through the private civil actions.”
Now to anyone familiar with how abortion cases typically fare in the courts, empowering private citizens to sue the abortion industry seems doomed to failure. So, what has the abortion facilities in Texas so scared that they have stopped scheduling abortions for women after 6 weeks gestation? In short, the truth.
For almost 50 years the abortion industry has thrived in the shadows. Immune from the majority of civil suits and protected from most government oversight, abortionists have been able to act with impunity for decades. This lack of oversight has enabled abortionists like Gosnell, Klopfer, and Carhart to commit heinous acts against women and their unborn children. If the American people knew what goes on behind the closed doors of their local Planned Parenthood, they would not rest until abortion was eradicated from the nation.
This is what the abortion industry is afraid of. This is why for now, they are keeping their heads down in Texas waiting for potential further action in the courts.
There is still a long road ahead for America’s prolife movement and the states will never be truly free to enforce their own laws until Roe v. Wade is overturned.