On Thursday, three Texas Republicans filed a measure that would criminalize abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which typically occurs around six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The Texas legislature is currently in the midst of a special session that was convened specifically to give lawmakers more time to consider abortion restrictions. The session will end on July 31. Until then, GOP lawmakers have been busy proposing a slew of anti-abortion bills in the hopes of being able to rush them through.
One of those bills, a measure to ban abortion after 20 weeks and shut down the majority of the states’ abortion clinics, has captured national attention over the past several weeks as thousands of Texans have rallied at the capitol in protest. The legislature gave final approval to that bill on Saturday, and Gov. Rick Perry (R) just signed it into law on Thursday morning. But that’s not enough to satisfy Reps. Phil King (R), Dan Flynn (R), and Geanie Morrison (R) — who filed HB 59 on the same day that Perry signed the controversial abortion restrictions.
So-called “heartbeat” bills are so radical that they divide the anti-choice community. In addition to criminalizing the vast majority of abortions, they also mandate invasive ultrasound procedures for women seeking abortions. In order to detect a fetal heartbeat so early in a pregnancy, doctors typically have to use a transvaginal probe.
Earlier this year, North Dakota became the first state to pass a six-week heartbeat ban. It currently represents the most stringent abortion ban the country has seen since Roe v. Wade first legalized the procedure, and it’s being challenged in court for overstepping Roe.
Later on Thursday night, the text for the bill was released. The heartbeat ban is a “trigger” provision, which means it wouldn’t take effect unless Roe v. Wade is overturned. If that court decision is struck down while HB 59 is law, a six-week abortion ban would immediately go into effect without requiring Texas to pass another law. Similar “trigger” provisions have been added to state constitutions in other conservative states in hopes of quickly banning abortion in the event that Roe is invalidated.