The Texas abortion law reads: “A physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child.” The new law defines “fetal heartbeat” as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.” The law bans most abortions after six weeks and lets anyone sue a suspected violator.

This law shows an extreme disregard of medical and legal practices. Moreover, this willful disregard reveals the law was written to satisfy Christian anti-abortion activists. Texas Right to Life, the primary organization behind this draconian law, states, “many more Texans must join us if we are to triumph, advance our Culture of Life, and build the Kingdom of God.”

Not only does it restrict rights now, it could be the preview of what’s to come.

Dr. Nisha Verma, an OB-GYN at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, explains the sound of an adult’s heartbeat as the rhythmic opening and closing of the cardiac valves: “At six weeks of gestation, those valves don’t exist!” So what a physician sees at six weeks on an ultrasound screen is just the electrical activity of a group of cells; the ultrasound generates the sound they hear.

Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an OB-GYN professor at the University of California, San Francisco, adds, “The sound of the heart valves opening and closing can only be heard after 10 weeks of gestation.” At six weeks, she said, “embryo” is the correct medical term, but “fetus” is purposely used because it brings up images of something that looks like a baby and creates a strong emotional response in ways “embryo” does not.

A University of Houston law professor, Seth Chandler, commented that letting anyone sue without standing (i.e., having not suffered monetary or property damages) because they were offended an abortion took place is unlikely to prevail in court. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled “merely being offended is not a basis for a lawsuit,” and the Texas Supreme Court claims they follow federal law on standing. The nation will be watching to see if the Texas Supreme Court rules anyone can sue without standing. Such a decision would not be limited to abortion and directly conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedence.

Elizabeth Sepper, a religious liberty and health law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, writes, “(The Texas law) tips the balance in favor of private vigilantes (to harass) people based on suspicion they might have donated to an abortion fund, or driven someone to an abortion. Even a provision says you can sue someone for intending to engage in conduct that aids or abets an abortion. That’s a thoughtcrime. Even if you don’t engage in that crime, there can be a lawsuit against you if you intend to.”

In her column, The Maine Millennial, Victoria Hugo-Vidal reported that pregnancy is dated from a woman’s last period. When women test positive for pregnancy, most women “can pretty safely assume the date the pregnancy started.” If a woman had sex two weeks after her last period and finds out two weeks later she is pregnant, she “will be considered four weeks pregnant, not two.”

Dr. Alan Braid, a physician, performed an abortion on a woman in Texas, still in her first trimester but after six weeks, because “I wanted to make sure Texas didn’t get away with (this) blatantly unconstitutional law (without) being tested.” Fortunately, two people seeking to help Dr. Braid test the legality of the state’s near-total ban on the procedure have sued Dr. Braid.

Speaking at the Budapest Demographic Summit, former Vice President Mike Pence said he hopes the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade. Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a political model for right-wing leaders. They admire his hard-line support for conservative social values and praise how abortion rates have fallen in Hungary, but overlook his denial of human rights. Orban consolidated Hungary’s media, eroded democratic institutions, and discriminates against minorities, including asylum seekers and LGBTQ people. We overlook these conservative ideals at our peril. If women are denied the right to choose, the denial of other human rights will follow.

Abortion rights advocates warn the country not to fall for the “it can’t happen here” meme. Conservative governors are waiting for the Supreme Court to declare the Texas law constitutional. If that happens, which seems likely given that the six conservative Supreme Court justices have an “overturn Roe v. Wade” agenda, the anti-abortion movement and its denial of human rights will explode across the entire nation.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments at [email protected] and  ffrfmaine.org.


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