Texas Human Heartbeat Protection Act (HB 59)
This law was last updated on Aug 19, 2013
HB 59 would have required that an abortion provider attempt to detect a fetal heartbeat using “standard medical practice” prior to an abortion, and would have prohibited an abortion upon detection of a fetal heartbeat and if the fetus is 12 weeks’ or greater gestation, unless a medical emergency exists.
The bill defines medical emergency to mean a condition that endangers the life of the pregnant woman, or poses a serious risk of complicating the pregnancy by directly or indirectly causing the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.
HB 59 would not have prevented the use, prescribing, or administration of contraceptives.
The term “standard medical practice” is vague, but generally, such practice would require the use of an intrusive vaginal ultrasound. Texas already requires the use of such vaginal ultrasounds as part of the ultrasound requirement in Texas’ Women’s Right to Know Act (HB 15), passed in May 2011.
The bill would have required the abortion provider to:
(1) inform the woman that the “unborn child” has a fetal heartbeat;
(2) provide information regarding probability of bringing the “unborn child” to term based on its gestational age;
(3) obtain a signed form acknowledging that the woman has been provided this information;
(4) wait at least 24 hours before performing an abortion after completing requirements 1 through 3.
This bill was introduced in the second special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry in 2013.
Federal courts have blocked similar heartbeat ban bills in Arkansas and North Dakota. In Arkansas, a federal court blocked SB 134, a 12-week ban. (Edwards v. Beck.) In North Dakota, a federal court blocked HB 1456, a six-week ban. (MKB Management, Inc. v. Burdick.)