This past Wednesday, the Texas “Heartbeat Law” went into effect as the law of the land in the Lone Star State. Many here in South Carolina, are wondering what that means for our very own Fetal Heartbeat Bill signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster back in February. There are 2 areas of difference between the Texas case and ours here in the Palmetto State.
First, the language in the laws is different. This plays a major factor in how those bills made their way through the legislative process and what happens to those bills once signed into law. In this case, the differences in the wording within the Texas and South Carolina laws will create different avenues within the judicial system as both cases will be heard by the court.
The answer is in the first line of the Texas bill that passed: “AN ACT relating to abortion, including abortions after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat; authorizing a private civil right of action.”
The new Texas law deals with Civil penalty, not Criminal Law. Civil and Criminal courts, laws, penalties and standards for determining guilt (or liability) or innocence are very different from each other. In Civil Court, a plaintiff can sue anyone who may have contributed the “harm” incurred. That’s why the Texas law allows the plaintiff to name the doctor, the nurse, the clinic, the secretary, or the person who drove the abortion recipient to the abortion clinic.
According to the ERLC:
What makes this different from other attempts to limit abortion?
A number of states have introduced fetal heartbeat bills, but until now, they have been blocked by the courts. While the Texas Heartbeat Act’s aim is similar to the other heartbeat bills, the enforcement mechanisms are different.
The law takes a novel legal approach to limit abortion by tasking enforcement of the measure “exclusively through private civil actions.” Essentially, the law allows any private citizen to bring a civil lawsuit against any individual who “performs or induces” an abortion, or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” an abortion, including the payment for or reimbursing the costs for an abortion. Individuals who prevail in their lawsuit will be awarded “statutory damages in an amount of not less than $10,000.”
Rebecca Parma, a senior legislative associate with Texas Right to Life, notes, “No heartbeat law passed by another state has taken this strategy. Additionally, the bill does not punish women who obtain abortions.”
Knowing that the laws are different in their language, we must also consider the courts in which these cases will be heard. Texas is in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, while South Carolina finds itself in the second most liberal appellate court in the US — The 4th. Because these 2 courts are different both in geography and the makeup of the judges on their benches, these 2 cases will be heard differently.
According to the order signed by five justices, “The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue. But their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden,” the majority wrote.
All of this means that, while very little of what is happening in Texas affects South Carolina there are 2 key takeaways. All eyes are on the Mississippi Law that the Supreme Court will hear later this year. Theirs is expected to be the precedent setting case that could be used to overturn Roe v. Wade. We need to pray for those justices as they hear this case and offer their opinion. Secondly when the legislature returns in January, South Carolina has the opportunity to pass a “Trigger Law” which would effectively end all abortions in our state when Roe v. Wade is overturned.
You can visit the State House website to contact your legislators and ask them to support the life of the unborn.
To hear more about this issue from our Palmetto Family Team, listen to the Palmetto Family Matters Podcast where we walk through the Texas and South Carolina laws in much greater detail.