The Texas legislature has been the subject of extensive media coverage regarding the state’s new election security law throughout the summer. Until last week, little national attention was focused on the Heartbeat Act that became effective on September 1.
The Heartbeat Act is a new pro-life law designed to prohibit abortions if a fetal heartbeat is medically detected in the unborn child. Fetal heartbeats are typically detected around the sixth week of pregnancy.
The new law also provides a mechanism for private citizens to bring civil actions in Texas state courts to enforce the law. The Act prohibits enforcement by Texas state officials. Plaintiffs who successfully bring a case are entitled to recover damages beginning at $10,000 and attorney’s fees as well as injunctive relief.
The law became effective on September 1, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the law could not be halted due to a federal lawsuit filed weeks before.
The Texas law could serve as a model for other state laws, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in a case that will be decided in the upcoming term.
President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that he plans to bring the full power of the federal government to bear against the Texas Heartbeat Act.
Biden said his administration would look for ways to take unilateral action against the Texas law and urged Congress to pass federal legislation to counteract the law. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would place the federal Women’s Health Protection Act before the House to vote when it returns from its August recess. That law is seen as an effort to give legislative protection to Roe v. Wade.
Biden commented further on the law on Friday, indicating that he may direct the Justice Department to move against the part of the Texas law that allows private citizens to bring lawsuits. He said he did not “know enough” to answer whether that would be done but had asked that it “be checked.”