Exceptions only for medical emergencies.
A Texas law effectively banning abortion of babies with detectable heartbeats appears to have saved the lives of 15,000 babies since taking effect five months ago, according to statistics from the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).
The Texas Heartbeat Act requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies. It relies on a unique enforcement mechanism, which “exclusively” empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists instead of state prosecutions. The law does not protect babies prior to them developing a detectable heartbeat.
The Act was swiftly challenged in court, but allowed by the Supreme Court to remain in effect while arguments work their way through the lower courts. In the meantime, the law has induced abortion chains Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health to temporarily suspend abortions past six weeks in the state.
This week, HHSC released a report finding that abortions had dropped from 5,404 in August 2021 to 2,197 in September, the month the Texas Heartbeat Act took effect, a reduction in 60%. Daily abortions also dropped from approximately 160 to 70. Overall, Texas Right to Life (TRTL) estimates that the law has saved 15,000 babies since taking effect.
“The success of the Texas Heartbeat Act is embodied by every child saved. For over 150 days, our work has saved an estimated 100 babies per day,” TRTL Media & Communication director Kimberlyn Schwartz said. “Our impact is only just beginning as more states seek to replicate our success and as we look to the Mississippi case that could overturn Roe this summer.”
“Anti-Life critics of the Texas Heartbeat Act have been adamant that the new law will put women in danger, and that preventing them from receiving early abortions would require them to seek later abortions due to a medical emergency,” TRTL writes. “On the other hand, some Pro-Life skeptics of the Texas Heartbeat Act asserted that abortionists would circumvent the law by carrying on business as usual and reporting everything as being a ‘medical emergency.’”
“However, the actual data reveal both of these fears to be untrue,” the group notes, as only one abortion was reported in September to have occurred between 17-20 weeks, and it was a case citing an immediate risk to the mother’s life. “The fact that medically emergent abortions have not increased proves that they are not surging in necessity and that they are not being used as excuses.”
Across the nation, pro-lifers are watching the Supreme Court with anticipation for eventual final resolution of the legal battle over the Texas law, which is likely to eventually be appealed to the justices again, as well as a ruling on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which could result in a long-awaited overturn of Roe v. Wade that would allow states to directly ban abortion at any point in pregnancy, without having to rely on novel enforcement mechanisms like the Texas law.