350 Texas lawyers, 200 doctors warn of chaos if ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill is enacted – About Your Online Magazine


Hundreds of doctors and lawyers across Texas are urging state lawmakers not to approve new restrictions on abortion, which they said could bring chaos to the state justice system and prevent women from receiving adequate medical advice.

The bill, due to be voted on Wednesday in the Texas House, would ban the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, when many women still do not know they are pregnant.

At first, it would also give private citizens legitimacy to sue a doctor or patient if the guidelines are not followed. No other state has attempted this tactic.

In a letter sent on Monday to Mayor Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, more than 200 doctors warned that the legislation, SB 8, would create “a scary effect” not just for doctors, but for anyone who can be involved in the process, including domestic violence counselors, relatives and clinical staff.

“Regardless of our personal beliefs about abortion, as licensed doctors in Texas, we implore you not to use the judiciary against us to make a political argument,” they wrote.

The bill has already been approved in the Senate, which means that approval in the House is one of the final obstacles that would need to be overcome before being enacted. Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican who would need to sign the measure into law, made abortion restrictions a priority in this legislative session.

“Senate Bill 8 supports a doctor’s oath to do no harm,” said the author, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes, in a statement last month. He added that “nothing is more indicative of life than the sound of a baby’s heartbeat”.

Abortion is currently legal in Texas until 20 weeks pregnant, unless the woman has a life-threatening medical condition or the fetus has a serious abnormality.

Last week, a group of nearly 400 Texas attorneys said the language of the proposal was so broad that it would allow a rapist to sue the victim’s doctor and family members if an abortion was performed after a fetal heartbeat was detected. The bill also contradicts the state constitution, which grants legitimacy in lawsuits only to those directly harmed.

SB 8 would allow not only anyone in Texas to process abortion care, but also anyone outside the state.

“The Texas Legislature cannot grant legitimacy to someone who has not suffered a personal injury without violating the separation of powers doctrine,” the lawyers wrote. “The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly drafted this fundamental rule.”

While the cases themselves may not be viable, the potential volume of them is what concerns abortion advocates and legal experts. In the past, abortion providers have managed, at least temporarily, to prevent the laws from coming into effect by suing the agency that executed them – the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, for example.

As SB 8 effectively distributes the regulation to everyone, it is unclear how or if suppliers would be able to delay the measure.

Texans remain divided on the issue in general, with a small majority in favor of reversing current restrictions or leaving them as they are, according to a recent UT / Texas Tribune Research.

jeremy.blackman@chron.com

Paula Fonseca