Texas State Rep. Shelby Slawson Resurrects ‘Heartbeat Bill’

Freshman state Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) has resurrected a proposal commonly called the “Heartbeat Bill” which would ban abortions from the moment a child’s heartbeat can be heard in the womb.

If passed, abortion physicians must search for a fetal heartbeat before performing any abortions. If the physician finds a heartbeat, he cannot perform the procedure.

“A physician may not intentionally perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the woman’s unborn child if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child… or failed to perform a test to detect a fetal heartbeat,” the text reads.

“A physician does not violate this section if the physician performed a test for a fetal heartbeat under Section and did not detect a fetal heartbeat.”

The bill, House Bill (HB) 1165, makes exceptions for emergency abortions to save the mother’s life. Current Texas law bans the abortion of a viable fetus, punishable by five years to life in prison.

Unlike the last version of the Heartbeat Bill, which would have empowered the state to prosecute and jail abortion physicians who violated it, Slawson’s HB 1165 punts the power of punishment to the Texas Medical Board. Under her bill, abortion physicians who carry out the procedure after hearing a heartbeat would only face an administrative penalty determined by the board. Licensure takes the lion’s share of the Texas Medical Board’s duties, and suspending the licenses of malpracticing doctors tends to be the board’s strongest penalty.

“Our Central Texas conservatives resolutely believe in the sanctity and purposefulness of every life woven into being by our Creator. In advancing the fight for our shared pro-life beliefs, our office filed House Bill 1165 to protect innocent, unborn lives from the moment of that precious first heartbeat,” Slawson told The Texan.

“We will be taking a vigorous approach to pro-life issues this session and will be filing and joining with colleagues on other measures designed to fulfill our duty to protect every life and end abortion.”

State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) introduced his version of the bill last session with a coalition of 60 lawmakers that signed on to support it. Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Lake Jackson), former speaker of the Texas House, dropped the bill in a committee chaired by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), where it died.

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has assigned chairmanships to committees in the Texas Senate, new Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has not yet assigned committees for the lower chamber. Phelan has said that he will assign some committees to Democrats.

A number of other states passed heartbeat laws in the same year that Texas failed, including Georgia and Ohio.

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