Texas Heartbeat Law is Saving Lives
Something truly extraordinary happened in Texas last week, something that I pray heralds a new phase in the battle to create a Culture of Life in the United States, and around the world.
For the first time ever, a law that bans abortions after a baby’s heartbeat is detected went into effect. Although many (around a dozen) states have passed so-called “Heartbeat Laws” in recent years, up until now none of those laws have been able to go into effect. Every single time, the courts have struck the law down, saying that it violates Roe v. Wade, which requires states to allow abortion up until the point of viability.
As in previous cases, pro-abortion activists filed an injunction for “emergency relief” from the Texas law. That request went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It became clear that something was different this time, however, when the Supreme Court had not yet responded to the emergency request before the law actually went into effect at midnight, Sept. 1.
Then came the very good – and, for many, entirely unexpected – news. On the evening of Sept. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ruling, rejecting all emergency appeals, and allowing the law to stay in effect. All three of President Trump’s judicial appointees joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in deciding to allow the law to stand, for now.
In other words, right now, in Texas, it is illegal to abort a baby after the point when the heartbeat is detected – i.e. around six weeks’ gestation. As many pro-abortion activists are noting, this amounts to a near-total abortion ban in the state, since in many cases the unborn baby has a heartbeat even before the baby’s mother knows she’s pregnant. In other words, many babies are being saved from abortion, right now, because this law has gone into effect.
Granted, this is only a temporary situation. Challenges are being brought against the law, and it may well be the case that a future challenge will be successful, striking it down.
However, there are two important things to note about this decision by the Supreme Court:
1) It goes without saying that Human Life International does not support any abortions whatsoever. Just because a baby’s heartbeat is detectable, does not mean that the child suddenly becomes human, or gains human rights. Science is clear that a unique human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. However, these Heartbeat Laws were designed by some pro-life legislators and legal organizations as a tool to push back against Roe, preparing the groundwork for a legal challenge that could finally topple the court case that has ensured that the United States has one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world. A Heartbeat Law will undoubtedly save many, many lives; but we cannot stop until all human lives are treated equally under the law.
2) Many people (including myself) were surprised that the High Court allowed the law to go into effect. In previous cases, the Court, and lower courts, were very swift in granting emergency injunctions against similar laws. The fact that this time around, five justices were willing to allow the law to go into effect may suggest that just as many justices are at least willing to consider the possibility that Roe is bad precedent and should be struck down. If so, that bodes extremely well for cases that are currently before the court, in which the Supreme Court will be given the opportunity to reconsider Roe.
The most high profile of these cases is a challenge against a Mississippi law that bans abortion after fifteen weeks. Many pro-life activists were heartened when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge against that law. At face value, it would seem that the only reason to hear that case is to consider arguments that Roe should be reversed, or at least modified. This latest case in Texas adds further weight to those hopes.
Biden Administration Vows to Fight Back
In the wake of the Court’s decision, the usual suspects have come out of the woodwork, claiming that the new law somehow “attacks” women, including our two most prominent and notoriously anti-life “Catholic” politicians.
“SCOTUS’s failure to block #SB8 has delivered catastrophe to women in Texas,” tweeted House Speaker Pelosi after the decision. “This radical law is an all-out effort to erase the rights and protections of Roe v. Wade.”
Naturally, President Biden and his administration are also making it very plain where they stand.
In a statement Biden called abortion a constitutional right and vowed to fight to ensure that killing unborn children is legal. Biden said his administration “is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right.”
This is the same Joe Biden who said during a 2012 vice presidential debate that he believes life begins at conception. “Life begins at conception, that’s the Church’s judgment,” he said at the time. “I accept it in my personal life.” Of course, he added that he refused to “impose” this verifiable scientific fact on people with other beliefs.
A few days ago, however, Biden expressed the polar opposite opinion. “I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” he said in answer to a reporter’s question. “I don’t agree, but I respect that. I’m not going to impose that on people.”
In 2012, Biden believed life began at conception, but he wasn’t going to impose this scientific fact on others. In 2021, he does not believe that life begins at conception, but isn’t going to impose this new belief on others either. So, what changed between 2012 and 2021 for Biden? Nothing, of course, except the political climate and the degree of power he possessed. If anybody is the quintessential politician, it’s Biden; a weathervane, shifting in the wind, willing to alter fundamental moral principles and change his opinion on scientific facts simply to suit the mood of the day.
Of course, his claims that he won’t “impose” his views on others are false. As evidenced in the above statement, Biden has vowed to use all of his power to ensure that abortion is legal in as many circumstances as possible. In other words, he is determined to “impose” his newest view on the unborn children who will die as a consequence of his pro-abortion policies.
Texas’ $100 Million Alternatives to Abortion Program
One thing pro-abortion activists love to charge pro-lifers with is only caring about children before they are born. In the weird fantasy world in which pro-abortion activists live, pro-lifers never lift a finger to help children once they are actually born.
To perpetuate this fantasy, they have to ignore the vast network of around 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers all around the country, which are almost entirely funded with private dollars from pro-life donors. Without any of the vast government funding enjoyed by abortion-promoting organizations like Planned Parenthood, these pregnancy centers provide all manner of free services, including pregnancy tests, ultrasound screening, job training, and the provision of necessities like diapers and clothes. Meanwhile, Christians are far more likely to adopt “unwanted” children than their secular counterparts.
However, conspicuously missing from the backlash against the Texas law in the media is any mention of the fact that the Texas government has been proactively preparing to ensure that the children that are saved from abortion by these pro-life laws, as well as their mothers, are well taken care of. Sixteen years ago, the state created the Alternatives to Abortion program, which is designed to provide meaningful support to parents who “choose life in difficult circumstances.”
According to this article in the Texas Tribune, the state is poised to spend some $100 million on the program over a two-year period – a stark difference from other states, which spend similar or even much larger amounts of money funding abortion clinics and other radically leftist, abortion-promoting activist organizations.
The Tribune reports: “Modeled after a similar initiative in Pennsylvania, Alternatives to Abortion channels money to a far-flung network of nonprofits — many of them ardently anti-abortion — to pay for counseling, classes and baby items. Its contractors cover topics like prenatal nutrition and newborn care, and also help parents land jobs. It caters to pregnant women and mothers of young children but also to fathers, adoptive parents and those who have lost a child.”
According to the Tribune, “Alternatives to Abortion contractors gave out more than 1 million material goods last year, led 331,000 counseling sessions and taught 314,000 classes.”
What an amazing program! In so many Western countries, the norm is for governments to spend vast sums of money preventing the birth of children, steering parents towards abortion, and otherwise attacking the integrity of the family. How refreshing to see a U.S. state proactively building up the family and creating the conditions to give mothers and fathers hope that they can face the challenge of bringing their child into the world.
Will Other States Do the Same?
With the U.S. Supreme Court already having allowed one heartbeat law to go into effect, pro-abortion activists are worried that it’s only a matter of time before this happens in other states.
They have every reason to be afraid. In recent years, a number of states, including Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Carolina, have passed heartbeat bills similar to the one in Texas.
These laws were passed with the recognition that they likely wouldn’t have a chance to go into effect, due to the limitations of Roe v. Wade. However, the hope was that in time a legal challenge would topple Roe, at which point these laws could kick in, protecting almost all children from abortion in those states.
However, with one law already in effect, even with Roe still standing, other states are looking to follow suit. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would support a similar law in the Sunshine State.
With momentum now firmly on the side of the pro-life movement, and with indications coming from the Supreme Court that they may be willing to revisit Roe, the time has never been better for concerted pro-life efforts, and intense prayer and fasting for the pro-life cause. With God’s grace, it may well be that we will yet live to see a time when almost all, if not all, unborn children in our great country are protected from the violence of abortion.
What a great example to the world that would be! And how many untold lives would be saved, and how many mothers and fathers spared from the pain and regret of abortion.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.