AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Senate Bill 8, a bill that would ban doctors from performing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, officially passed in the Texas House on Thursday 83 – 64. It previously passed its initial vote on Wednesday 81-63.
That usually occurs as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
It would also allow anyone to sue a doctor who performs an abortion after that point, or anyone who assisted in the process. It’s one of several bills this session aiming to restrict access to abortions.
“When a beating heart represents a life within a womb, we have a duty to protect that innocent unborn life,” Republican Rep. Shelby Slawson said on the House floor Wesdneday.
She said when she was in her mother’s womb, a doctor told her mother Rep. Slawson would not develop normally, and recommended an abortion. But, her mother carried her to term.
“Now 44 years and two days later, that little baby girl is standing in this chamber. Her heart beating as strongly and as rapidly as it did all those years ago. As she lays out before you Senate Bill 8,” Rep. Slawson said.
But Rep. Slawson was quickly met with hours of questions from lawmakers on the other side of the aisle.
“I value life. My pregnancies, I was very grateful for my children and grandchildren, I’m very grateful for it, but it doesn’t always work that way for everybody,” Rep. Donna Howard, D – Austin, began at the podium.
“According to the science, the Doppler fetal monitor that has that sound that you gave us a while ago, is not actually the sound of a heartbeat, but an amplified version of signals. You’re not hearing a heartbeat, you’re hearing an amplified version of electrical signals. Did you know that?” Rep. Howard questioned.
Rep. Slawson said she fundamentally disagreed with that fact.
“Representative, I’ve had a lot of ultrasounds and they never once referenced an electrical impulse. It was measured in beats per minute,” Rep. Slawson said.
“I’m just telling you what the science says. And I can’t say what you’ve been told. I’m telling you what the science is now,” Rep. Howard said.
The opposition extends outside the walls of the Capitol this week as well.
Tuesday, a group of faith leaders gathered outside the South entrance of the Capitol to protest SB 8 and other abortion-restricting measures.
“We may differ in our beliefs about when life begins. But we agree that once life begins, it should be preserved and protected to the greatest extent possible,” Rabbi Nancy Kasten of Dallas said Tuesday, arguing that the mother’s heartbeat should matter, too.
“SB 8, HB 1515 do not serve the nascent lives they claim to protect,” Kasten said.
Dallas Reverend Erika Forbes also opposed the bill, explaining women of color would be disproportionately affected by this legislation.
“I was that teenage girl. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until eight weeks in, and had I not had the opportunity to get the abortion that I deserve, that is my legal right, my life would have been decimated,” Forbes said she did not have the resources to raise a child when she was a teenager.
But pro-life groups said there are clinics that can help.
“We have more than 200 pro-life pregnancy resource centers and all those services are free, and their goal is to make women have alternatives to abortion. Our goal is that no woman would seek an abortion because she has no alternatives,” Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life said Wednesday.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for final approval of amendments added in the House.