A groundbreaking Texas law that bans abortion if a heartbeat is detected has saved more than 10,000 unborn lives since going into effect in September, according to a state pro-life group.
The law, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, requires abortion doctors to test for a heartbeat and prohibits an abortion if one is detected. Opponents of the law have found it difficult to challenge in court because state officials are not given enforcement power under the law’s text. Instead, the law gives sole enforcement authority to citizens, who are allowed to sue abortion doctors who violate it.
An unborn baby typically has a heartbeat around six weeks of pregnancy.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life told Christian Headlines this week that the group estimates “between 10,000-13,000” unborn lives have been saved since it went into effect Sept. 1. The organization also estimates that the law is saving about 100 lives a day.
Abortion providers in Texas, including Whole Woman’s Health, say they are providing abortions but only as allowed by law.
The U.S. Supreme Court in December declined the Biden administration’s request to block the law, although the justices allowed abortion providers to continue their lawsuit against four state government employees.
But even the narrow legal path green-lighted by the Supreme Court has proven frustrating for abortion providers to follow. More than a month after the high court issued its ruling, the law remains in effect.
The latest legal loss by abortion providers came last week, when the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, sent the case to the Texas Supreme Court – instead of to the federal district judge who previously had blocked the law. Abortion clinics had asked the Fifth Circuit to send the case to the judge.
The Fifth Circuit’s decision means the law could remain in effect for months, if not permanently. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a separate case that could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Ed Whelan, a distinguished senior fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said the Fifth Circuit’s decision was the right one. The Texas Supreme Court, he tweeted, is the “authoritative interpreter of Texas law.”
“Prospect of relief against state licensing officials turns on unresolved state-law issues. Certification is entirely sensible and, as [the] court explains, consistent with SCOTUS remand,” Whelan wrote.
Texas Right to Life called the Fifth Circuit’s action “great news” because it is “more likely to ensure a just and favorable ruling, compared to that which could be expected from a pro-abortion federal district judge.”
“Beyond this, sending the lawsuit to the Supreme Court of Texas is appropriate because the only defendants left in the case are state agencies,” Texas Right to Life said.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.