The nation's most restrictive abortion law went into effect Wednesday morning when a Texas law prohibiting an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected took effect without Supreme Court action.
Although the high court still could act at any moment in blocking the law, pro-life groups were celebrating what they considered a milestone in the decades-long legal and political battle against abortion on demand.
"Texas is now the first state ever to enforce a heartbeat law," Texas Right to Life said in a statement.
Lila Rose, president of Live Action, said the law would "save the lives of an average of 150 children each day."
The new Texas Heartbeat law will save the lives of an average of 150 children each day. Yet there are hundreds of accounts on Twitter—including many “journalists,” attacking the law. Imagine being upset about the fact 150 children get to live another day. Blind. Tragic. Heartless— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 1, 2021
"No child should have her skull crushed and be ripped into pieces in an abortion," she tweeted. "No mother should have her baby torn from her womb. No father should be stripped of his right to protect his baby. It's time to build a culture of life in America & end abortion. We stand with Texas."
No child should have her skull crushed and be ripped into pieces in an abortion— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 1, 2021
No mother should have her baby torn from her womb
No father should be stripped of his right to protect his baby
It’s time to build a culture of life in America & end abortion
We stand with Texas
Abortion clinics, which are asking the Supreme Court to block the law, said it prohibits 85 percent of abortions in the state. A fetal heartbeat is typically detected at around six weeks of pregnancy.
The law, signed this year by Gov. Greg Abbott, requires doctors to conduct a test for a fetal heartbeat. If one is detected, then the doctor is prohibited from performing an abortion. It allows exceptions for medical emergencies.
Leading up to Wednesday, Planned Parenthood clinics were not scheduling appointments for abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion groups have found the law difficult to challenge because it prohibits state officials from enforcing it. Instead, it allows citizens to sue abortion clinics that break the law.
Ed Whelan, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, called the law "innovative" and – from the perspective of pro-lifers – "brilliant."
"The Texas Heartbeat Act was written this way to prevent abortion providers from obtaining pre-enforcement relief against state officials," Whelan wrote at NationalReview.com.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to block the law.
The text of the law says "any person" other than "an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity" may "bring a civil action against any person who … performs or induces an abortion in violation" of the law. Those who sue and win would be awarded at least $10,000 for each illegal abortion.
"Texas has compelling interests from the outset of a woman's pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child," the law says.
The law took effect as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments this fall in a major case involving a Mississippi pro-life law that bans abortion after the 15th week of a woman's term. The text of the Mississippi law says abortions after 15 weeks mostly involve the "use of surgical instruments to crush and tear the unborn child apart."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Estradaanton
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.