Community Reacts to Texas Heartbeat Act


Wally Gobetz

Texas State Capitol Building

Alexandra Levy and Ada Sensoy

On May 19, 2021, the Texas State Legislature passed the Heartbeat Act, which went into effect on September 1, 2021. The law permits anyone in Texas to sue a person who performs an abortion in the state after an embryo’s cardiac activity can be detected–typically around six weeks after the embryo has been formed. The legislation also allows any private citizen to sue someone who helps an individual get an abortion after embryonic cardiac activity is detected. The law is extremely controversial throughout the United States. Furthermore, many citizens are concerned about how this law could affect future legislation. 

Zoe Herzog ’22, a co-leader of Feminism Club, explains the effect she believes the Texas law has had on women’s rights in the US. 

“The law has definitely abridged women’s rights,” Herzog says. “It has taken women a long time to get to this place in the country, and we aren’t even yet on an equal level, and I think that the Texas Abortion Law brings us back to pre-Roe v. Wade times. I think it’s scary to think that if that can go back, what else can too.” Roe v. Wade was a court case in 1970, which resulted in abortions being made legal. 

Herzog also reflects on what people can do to help, “I think it’s important to give money to Planned Parenthood to make abortions as accessible as possible because they’re not going to stop happening. The sooner we accept that in this country, the safer it will be for everyone.” Herzog acknowledges that despite any law, some women will still go through with abortions, it is just a matter of if they are done safely or not. She believes once the country realizes this, less people will fight to make abortions illegal. 

Susannah Walker, who teaches history and Friends Seminary’s Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class, shares her opinion on the law, and why it might be difficult to overturn.

“I think the most important thing about the law is that it is difficult to challenge its constitutionality, since it puts into the hands of any citizen organization rather than the government body the ability to sue an organization,” she says.

Furthermore, Walker notes how the name of this law can cause people to interpret it wrongly. “Calling it a ‘heartbeat law’ is a misnomer,” Walker notes. “Since even when you can hear a heartbeat, the heart has still yet to be formed.”

Walker also mentions the unrealistic time frame the law gives women to get an abortion: “A heartbeat can technically be heard by six weeks, but many women don’t know they are pregnant until after they miss their first period, so there is not enough time to get an abortion.”

Walker continues by explaining how the law could allow for more laws like this. “It would allow other states to do the same thing,” she says. “They can create laws that could restrict abortion, down to not making them available at all.” 

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine whether or not the law can be challenged for its constitutionality, and whether or not they can make the law only enforceable by average citizens. The court’s consideration began on November 1, 2021, and if the court rules that the law is constitutional, then it will set the precedent that can pass similar laws without the fear of being challenged by the Roe Decision and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. The court is currently deliberatiing on the case, and its decision will shape the legality of abortion in the United States moving forward.