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'Chilling effect on our judicial system' | Legal expert weighs in on abortion bill in Texas

Among other things, the bill bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

HOUSTON — Members of the Texas House of Representatives voted to pass a controversial abortion bill Thursday.

RELATED: 'Heartbeat' abortion bill passes Texas House

Senate Bill 8, called The Texas Heartbeat Act, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically at six weeks gestation and before most women know they are pregnant. The bill does not make an exception for survivors of rape or incest who become pregnant as a result of the crime against them. It only allows an exception for a woman suffering a medical emergency.

The bill also allows anyone to sue a Texas doctor who performs or has an intent to perform an abortion and recover at least $10,000. The House amended the bill Wednesday to exclude rapists and people who commit incest against a woman from being able to sue doctors.

Because of that amendment, the bill will now go back to the Senate where lawmakers can accept the change made by the House, or request a conference committee where appointees from each chamber will discuss the differences.

“This has a chilling effect on our judicial system,” KHOU 11 legal analyst Carmen Roe said. “One that’s already been crippled by COVID.”

Regardless if a person is for or against the bill, Roe said it’s likely to face legal challenges while it floods the courts with frivolous lawsuits.

“There are 400 lawyers that are making it very clear that this law is a violation of the Texas constitution, a violation of the separation of powers and a violation of a very basic tenant than an individual cannot sue unless they’ve been harmed,” Roe said.

Two hundred doctors also sent a letter to lawmakers in opposition to the bill. How healthcare facilities and doctors would move forward if the bill passes is still unclear.

“I think lawmakers are being too smart by half,” Roe said. “I think that they think they’ve come up with a solution to a problem when they just created another problem."

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