Texas Law Banning Abortions After Heartbeat Detection Set to Go Into Effect

Abortion providers ask Supreme Court to intervene
By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 30, 2021 Updated: August 30, 2021

A Texas law that would ban approximately nine out of 10 abortions is set to take effect this week, after a court rejected attempts to block the measure and canceled a hearing.

A hearing that was going to take place on Aug. 30 that would have seen judges consider whether to grant a preliminary injunction against the law, Senate Bill 8, was canceled on Aug. 27 by a federal court.

Some 22 abortion providers had planned to try to convince the court to block the law from taking effect. Instead, it will become effective on Sept. 1, even as legal challenges against it continue.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also denied emergency motions filed by abortion providers asking for action that might have led to the law being blocked.

“At this point, there are no other legal vehicles to stop The Heartbeat Act from taking effect on Wednesday,” John Seago, legislative director at Texas Right to Life, told The Epoch Times.

The law in question, signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bars physicians from performing abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can be detected as early as six weeks after conception.

The atypical measures leave enforcement in the hands of private citizens, who can file lawsuits against doctors, clinics, and anyone involved in an abortion that violates the law. State officials cannot enforce the provisions.

Ken Paxton at CPAC
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, on July 11, 2021. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The law drew praise from pro-life advocates and opposition from abortion providers, 20 of whom sued last month to stop it from going into effect.

The groups, which include Planned Parenthood, said the law could lead to abortion providers, clinic staff, and others being “saddled with endless lawsuits that consume their time and resources and prevent them from providing health care services, ultimately forcing them to shut down.”

“If permitted to take effect, S.B. 8 will create absolute chaos in Texas and irreparably harm Texans in need of abortion services,” the suit reads, alleging that Texas can’t enact a law that goes against the U.S. Constitution, appearing to refer to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

The defendants, top Texas officials, countered that the court lacked jurisdiction.

The defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ claims not only lacked standing, but that they were barred by sovereign immunity, as state officials are expressly forbidden in the law from enforcing its provisions.

The defendants asked the court to dismiss the suit, but U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, rejected those motions.

That prompted an appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and filings to Pitman requesting that he cancel the Aug. 30 hearing.

Pitman said in an Aug. 27 order that he largely granted the defendants’ latest requests and then canceled the hearing following a decision by the appeals court.

He also indicated that he agreed with at least part of the defendants’ position.

“Forcing plaintiffs to wait until a state enforcement action is brought against them to raise their constitutional concerns would leave plaintiffs without the ability to vindicate their constitutional rights in federal court before any constitutional violation occurs,” he wrote in a separate order last week.

A spokesperson for the judge told The Epoch Times via email that she couldn’t comment beyond the filings in the case. The appeals court didn’t include any rationale for its decision.

The abortion providers later filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court to review the law.

Seago, of the Texas Right to Life, told The Epoch Times that there will be an ongoing legal battle, but for now “it looks like it’s good news for the pro-life movement this week.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.