[GET] 350 Texas lawyers, 200 doctors warn of chaos if ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill is enacted – Review

Hundreds of doctors and lawyers across Texas are urging state lawmakers not to pass new abortion restrictions that they say could bring chaos to the state court system and prevent women from receiving even sound medical advice.

The bill, which is expected to be voted on Wednesday in the Texas House, would ban the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant.

In a first, it would also give private citizens standing to sue a doctor or patient if the guidelines are not followed. No other state has tried that tactic.

In a letter sent Monday to House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, more than 200 physicians warned that the legislation, SB 8, would create “create a chilling effect” not only for doctors, but for anyone who may be involved in the process, including domestic violence counselors, relatives and clinic staff.

“Regardless of our personal beliefs about abortion, as licensed physicians in Texas, we implore you to not weaponize the judicial branch against us to make a political point,” they wrote.

The bill has already passed the Senate, meaning approval in the House is one of the final hurdles it would need to overcome before being enacted. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who would need to sign the measure into law, has made abortion restrictions a priority this legislative session.

“Senate Bill 8 supports a physician’s oath to do no harm,” the author, Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, said in a statement last month. He added that “nothing is more indicative of life than the sound of a baby’s heartbeat.”

Abortion is currently legal in Texas up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, unless a woman has a life-threatening medical condition or the fetus has a severe abnormality.

Last week, a group of nearly 400 Texas lawyers said the language in the proposal is so broad it would allow a rapist to sue their victim’s doctor and family members if an abortion was provided after a fetal heartbeat was detected. The bill also contradicts the state constitution, which grants legal standing in lawsuits only to those directly harmed.

SB 8 would allow not only anyone in Texas to sue over abortion care, but anyone outside of the state as well.

“The Texas Legislature cannot bestow standing on someone who has not personally suffered an injury without violating the separation of powers doctrine,” the lawyers wrote. “The Texas Supreme Court has elaborated on this bedrock rule repeatedly.”

While the cases themselves may not end up being viable, the potential volume of them is what has abortion advocates and legal experts worried. In the past, abortion providers have been able to at least temporarily block laws from taking effect by suing the agency carrying them out — the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, for example.

Because SB 8 effectively distributes the regulation to everyone, it’s unclear how or whether providers would be able to delay the measure.

Texans remain divided on the issue overall, with a small majority favoring rolling back current restrictions or leaving them as is, according to a recent UT/Texas Tribune survey.

jeremy.blackman@chron.com

[GET] 350 Texas lawyers, 200 doctors warn of chaos if ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill is enacted – Review
4.9 (98%) 32 votes