As many of you know, Texas recently passed SB 8 The Texas Heartbeat Act, a draconian law that bans all abortions after a heartbeat can be detected. This bill is added to their already restrictive abortion laws: patients are forced to receive in-person state-mandated "counseling" that discourages abortion; pregnant patients must make two trips to a health center 24 hours apart to receive care; a ban on telemedicine for prescription of medication abortions; a ban on public and private insurance coverage for abortion; and parental consent and notification is required to obtain an abortion.
Fetal heartbeats can be detected around “6 weeks of pregnancy.” Most women – especially those who are not trying to get pregnant or who have irregular menstrual cycles – do not yet know they are pregnant at that time. After all, a pregnancy is dated by starting with the first date of the last menstrual period (LMP), which is a crazy time to start the clock because the pivotal sexual intercourse act has yet to occur! In fact, the sperm typically fertilizes the ovulated egg about 2 weeks after the LMP, which then travels through the Fallopian tubes implanting in the uterus about 3 weeks after the LMP. So, someone who is 6 weeks pregnant really has only had the embryo in the uterus for about 3 weeks, and depending on the regularity of the menstrual cycle, may not have yet missed a period.
This law bans most abortions in Texas. Clinics around the state have stopped providing abortions beyond 6 weeks of pregnancy, which is itself an unconstitutional slap in the face to women by essentially overturning Roe v. Wade. But it is the unique mechanism for enforcement that sends fascist shivers down our spines. This law turns family, neighbors, friends and even strangers in other states into vigilantes who can sue and collect at least $10,000 bounties if they even suspect that someone in Texas is trying to obtain or is “aiding or abetting” someone to obtain an abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy.
Here are some more facts about this Texas bill:
In addition to suing medical providers, there is no limit to the number of lawsuits that can be filed by someone against ordinary people who they consider to be “aiding or abetting” the patient to obtain an abortion. This includes people or entities who give money for the abortion, counselors, parents, friends, clergy, and even Uber/Lyft/taxi drivers who drop off the patient at the clinic.
The problem is that defining the term “aiding or abetting” is murky, and that is the intention. The law is intended to make people scared to talk and act. If everyone is frozen in fear, nothing happens. Just the fear of being sued cuts down on the number of medical providers and other people willing to help pregnant women realize their constitutional rights.
There is no downside for a plaintiff to file a lawsuit since if the plaintiff (suer) wins, the defendant must pay for all costs and legal fees. If the defendant wins, the law prohibits the plaintiff from being ordered to pay any of the defendants’ legal fees. Win-win for the plaintiff.
There is no exception in the law for rape or incest, only to save the life of the mother if emergently required.
Partners and parents, including abusive ones, can force their pregnant partners and children to continue their pregnancies against their wishes.
And here is the kicker. Florida Senate President (Simpson) and Florida Speaker of the House (Sprowls) have stated their intent to pursue similar legislation in Florida during this next session. They are working on a bill now, but one has not yet been filed. It is incumbent on all of us to stand up and fight now for our constitutional rights and stop the spread of these malicious laws that place bounties on women’s heads.
So please contact our own State Legislators below, tell them that you do not support any further restrictions on abortion and will strongly oppose any efforts to do so.
Senator Doug Broxson
Representative Jayer Williamson
Representative Alex Andrade
Representative Michelle Salzman
Also send a message to the Republican legislators listed below. They need to hear from folks throughout the state.
Senate President Wilton Simpson
Tallahassee #: (850) 487-5010
District #: (352) 688-5077
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
Tallahassee #: (850) 487-5028
District #: (239) 417-6205
Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez
Tallahassee #: (850) 487-5039
District #: (305) 470-2552
Speaker Chris Sprowls
Tallahassee #: (850) 717-5065
District #: (727) 793-2810
Representative Linda Chaney
Tallahassee #: (850) 717-5069
District #: (727) 341-7385
Representative Renee Plascencia
Tallahassee #: (850) 717-5050
District #: (321) 383-5151
Representative Jackie Toledo
Tallahassee #: (850) 717-5060
District #: (813) 281-5549
Thank you. We will continue to monitor the Florida Legislature and keep you informed of next steps.