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Heartbeat laws and lousy abortion advocacy strategy

 I'm seeing a lot of false info going around about the Texas hearbeat law. 

There's a couple of things that are blatantly, egregiously false & really need addressed.


Claim: The law allows rapists to sue their victims for having an abortion.

Claim: The law provides no exception for victims of rape or incest.


Reality: The law does not impose civil liability on the mother - only on the physician and anybody who assists in the abortion or in obtaining the abortion, so no, sex criminals cannot sue their victims. All of the wording of the law makes prohibitions against the physician's behavior and any 3rd party that assists, and all of the penalties are applied to the physician or any 3'rd party participant. This would not even allow the mother to be sued at all.


Further, the law specifically states, regarding rape or incest:


(a)  Notwithstanding Section 171.005 or any other law, the requirements of this subchapter shall be enforced exclusively through the private civil actions described in Section 171.208.  No enforcement of this subchapter, and no enforcement of Chapters 19 and 22, Penal Code, in response to violations of this subchapter, may be taken or threatened by this state, a political subdivision, a district or county attorney, or an executive or administrative officer or employee of this state or a political subdivision against any person, except as provided in Section 171.208.


Section 171.208 says

(j) Notwithstanding any other law, a civil action under this section may not be brought by a person who impregnated the abortion patient through an act of rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by Sections 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code.


Since, in order to file the civil complaint needed to collect (from the doctor - you can't sue the mother) one would have to know 1) that the mother had an abortion, 2) where she got it done, and 3) that the physician either failed to comply with the heartbeat testing & documentation requirement or aborted after a heartbeat was detected. There's no way for a 3rd party who to have all of the information they need in order to sue unless the doctor or the mother gives them that information. People who are not in positions of authority don't have the legal power to force the doctor or the mother to do that, and the doctor CAN'T even disclose that information to them without a court order or he'll be in violation of HIPAA.

Therefore, only family - and in particular the father - is even likely to be able determine that information, based on the required logistics, and the law bars a perpetrator of a sex crime from bringing a civil action against anybody involved if the pregnancy is a result of his criminal sexual misconduct.

That is your rape or incest exception.

https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB8/id/2395961 (heartbeat law)

https://casetext.com/statute/texas-codes/health-and-safety-code/title-2-health/subtitle-h-public-health-provisions/chapter-171-abortion/subchapter-h-detection-of-fetal-heartbeat/section-171205-exception-for-medical-emergency-records Tex. Health & Safety Code § 171.205


https://casetext.com/statute/texas-codes/health-and-safety-code/title-2-health/subtitle-h-public-health-provisions/chapter-171-abortion/subchapter-h-detection-of-fetal-heartbeat/section-171208-civil-liability-for-violation-or-aiding-or-abetting-violation#:~:text=Download-,Section%20171.208%20%2D%20Civil%20Liability%20For%20Violation%20Or%20Aiding%20Or%20Abetting,this%20subchapter%3B%20(2)%20knowingly Tex. Health & Safety Code § 171.208


https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.171.htm Health & safety code title 2, health, subtitle H, public health provisions, chapter 171, abortion


The one thing I see in this that is disturbing is the possibility that any abortionist might try to pressure a patient to make a false allegation of rape to prevent the father from suing him or her for performing the abortion, so I hope the courts will not allow allegations alone to halt any lawsuit, but instead only rule that a party who has been criminally convicted cannot sue... and that Texas judges will enforce laws against false complaints to police, lying during an investigation, and perjury, including the accompanying penalties.


Claim: This is men trying to control women's bodies. No uterus, no opinion!

Claim: This is the pro-life minority trying to impose their beliefs on the pro-choice majority.



Gallup in 2019 reported that 51% of women identify as pro-life, while only 43% identify as pro-choice.

More men are pro-choice - 48% as opposed to 46% who identify as pro-life. So per-capita, more men are pro-choice than women, and women are more pro-life than pro-choice.

Among other things, this makes it slightly less believable that if a physician performs an abortion in violation of this law, the father of the baby will sue him. Chances are lower that any given father will be pro-life than that any given mother will be.



Arguments regarding the value & validity of legislative responses to the abortion controversy are one thing. Creating hysteria by promoting false claims about legislation is another entirely. I think that undermines the pro-choice position just as much as it undermines the pro-life position when some idiot claims sex crimes cannot lead to conception because of trauma.


Personally, I think the current attitudes of abortion providers and seekers are such that if the procedure was outlawed, those who wanted it or wanted to get paid for performing it would just break the law. If the goal is to prevent the practice, education and a change of social attitudes are going to be far more effective than legislation & should be the priority of the pro-life movement. Especially, ensuring that young women and girls old enough to conceive to understand that they are the sole gatekeepers of their own fertility & have 100% control over whether the conditions that lead to conception get to happen with their consent; 100% of the power to take the guesswork out of it. If sex education in the public school system is effective, there is no reason why any girl or woman who was exposed to that curriculum should find herself unable to totally prevent herself from becoming pregnant as a result of consensual sex. She should come out of it knowing 1) exactly how conception occurs, 2) the effectiveness of abstinence, and 3) solid information regarding the full spectrum of birth control and infection prevention options that are available to her, including advice regarding their proper use, what could interfere with their effectiveness, and how to combine two forms to make one a safety net in case of failure in the other. So armed, she should be able to create a 0% chance of unplanned pregnancy, thus eliminating the need for her to have to consider abortion. 


If the goal is vengeance against providers, this law is moderately effective, because it can hit them in the wallet IF someone has the information needed to sue... but aside from that it's basically just lip service & at worst it might lead to an increase in false sex crime allegations against men. I view it as being meant to feel like a pro-life victory without actually achieving one.

Personally, I think vengeance is useless to the living and would rather see the procedure become unwanted enough that providers cannot attract enough of a consumer base to stay in business. It could still be done in hospitals under emergency circumstances such as when complications of maintaining the pregnancy to the point of viability are a threat to the mother’s life. There just would be no need for abortion clinics, not because women’s interest in them is being thwarted, but because it has diminished to the point of making the industry unsustainable. 

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