Pro-lifers celebrated the passage of another pro-life bill in Texas on Tuesday, one that would completely ban abortions as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to do so.
The Texas Senate passed the Human Life Protection Act (House Bill 1280) in a 19-12 vote; now it heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
“We are extremely pleased at the passage of HB 1280,” said Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “To whatever extent the Supreme Court allows states to protect unborn babies from abortion — whether at 15 weeks, six weeks, or at conception — the Human Life Protection Act will go into effect to the same extent.”
Sometimes referred to as a “trigger bill,” the legislation would protect unborn babies by banning abortions completely or as much as the U.S. Supreme Court allows when it overturns Roe v. Wade. The ban would go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court rules. Exceptions would be allowed for risks to the mother’s life or a “substantial impairment of major bodily function.” Abortionists who violate the measure could face fines or prison time.
The Dallas Morning News reports state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, who wrote the bill, said Texas ought to protect the rights of all human beings.
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“I believe all Texans deserve the opportunity to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Paxton said during a Senate hearing last week. “I believe House Bill 1280 … is the appropriate vehicle to ensure that this right is immediately protected should the Supreme Court overturn the current precedent.”
The bill passed with bipartisan support, barely a week after Texas passed another bill to ban abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
The Texas Heartbeat Act will abolish elective abortions as early as six weeks, when the preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable using methods according to standard medical practice. The policy would take effect on September 1, 2021.
Meanwhile, abortion advocacy groups criticized state lawmakers for focusing on protections for unborn babies rather than other crises in Texas.
“HB 1280 is a trigger law meant to ban abortion in Texas if Roe v. Wade is overturned, but that is a hypothetical situation,” said Diana Gomez, advocacy manager for Progress Texas. “Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land and abortion is legal in Texas. What is not hypothetical are the thousands of lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the millions of Texans who are uninsured. Instead of passing legislation meant to address hypotheticals, lawmakers should focus on reality.”
But pro-life advocates and lawmakers recognize that abortion also is a crisis. In 2019 alone, more than 56,600 unborn babies were aborted in Texas, according to state health statistics.
Current Supreme Court precedent forces states to allow abortions up until the baby is viable outside the womb. The ruling makes the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions. Since 1973 when the court ruled on Roe, more than 62 million unborn babies have been aborted.
Once the governor signs the bill, Texas will join about 10 other states with similar trigger laws that ban abortions, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.
Pro-life advocates hope and abortion activists fear that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe as soon as next year.
Last week, the justices agreed to hear a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. At issue in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the question of “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, Texas is taking other actions to protect unborn babies and support mothers in need. Last week, Abbott signed a heartbeat law to prohibit abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. Nearly 30 Texas cities also have passed ordinances to ban abortions within their city limits. State House lawmakers also approved a $20 million increase in funding for programs that provide free support services to pregnant and parenting families.
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