The Texas Senate voted Tuesday afternoon to pass legislation that would protect unborn babies from abortions once a heartbeat is detectable.

The heartbeat bill, state Senate Bill 8, passed on third reading and now heads to the state House. Sponsored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill would require abortionists to check for an unborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibit the abortion if it is detected. It would create criminal penalties for abortionists who violate the measure.

“This bill says for the little baby inside her mother’s womb, if there is a heartbeat detected, that little baby will be protected,” Hughes said.

A leading pro-life group told LifeNews it is delighted that the state is advancing key legislation to protect babies from abortion.

“After a victorious two days in the State Senate, the Texas Pro-Life movement now focuses on the Texas State House. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Chairman Bryan Hughes, the Senate led the effort to pass six Pro-Life bills this week during the 87th Legislature, including three bills on Texas Right to Life’s Priority Agenda. The final procedural vote occurred today, and all these measures now move across the Capitol to the House for hearings and debate,Texas Right to Life said. “These three bills passed today represent the boldest Pro-Life policies to ever be endorsed by the Texas Senate.”

“Since each measure stops abortion, draws attention to the humanity of the preborn child, and undermines the flawed legal foundation of Roe vs. Wade, these are the priorities for Texas Right to Life during this Legislature,” it said.

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State Sen. Eddie Lucio, a pro-life Democrat who Planned Parenthood attacked with a racist campaign last year, defended the legislation against criticism from other Democrats, according to the Morning News.

When state Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, slammed the bill as a “mockery,” Lucio responded: “For you to use the word mockery, it offends me… If anything, to stand for abortion really makes a mockery of the sanctity of life.”

Here’s more from the Chronicle:

Texas lawmakers are convinced they’ve engineered a bill that can withstand legal challenges.

Instead of the state enforcing the law, State Sen. Bryan Hughes said his bill will allow any Texan to file a civil suit against a doctor or any person who “aids and abets” a woman who gets an abortion after a heartbeat is detected in the fetus. So it would not be the state enforcing the abortion ban, a key sticking point in past abortion restrictions that federal courts have repeatedly found to be unconstitutional.

Instead, the Hughes bill leaves enforcement up to private citizens.

However, a spokesperson from the ACLU of Texas hinted that they will sue if the bill becomes law. The pro-abortion legal group slammed the bill as an unconstitutional infringement on women’s rights and a violation of civil rights in the Texas Constitution.

The other pro-life legislation that passed Monday includes a bill to ban abortions completely if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, another to prohibit abortion drugs from being delivered by mail, legislation to prohibit local governments from funding abortions and abortion-related activities with taxpayer dollars, a bill to prohibit abortions for fetal anomalies after 20 weeks, another to require a third party to offer informed consent and resources to mothers seeking abortions, and a multi-action pro-life bill that would, among other life-saving measures, ban abortions after six weeks when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.

A number of states have passed heartbeat laws in recent years, but all have been banned from enforcing them due to legal challenges by abortion activist groups. States with heartbeat laws include Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Tennessee. South Carolina also passed a heartbeat law in February.

Americans support strong limits on abortion. A 2019 Hill-HarrisX survey found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive. Gallup polls also consistently have found that a majority of Americans think all or most abortions should be illegal.

Some pro-lifers have renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold an abortion ban and overturn Roe v. Wade. Others, however, are hesitant because of concerns about losing the court battle and being forced to reimburse pro-abortion groups for their legal fees.

Though a majority of the justices are Republican appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts has sided with the liberal justices on a number of occasions.

In 1973, the Supreme Court took away the states’ ability to protect unborn babies from abortion under Roe v. Wade, and instead forced states to legalize abortion on demand. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.

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