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Misrepresenting The “Fetal Heartbeat” Texas Bill

Geoff Livingston (CC)

Geoff Livingston (CC)

 Certain parts of the Internet went started frothing at the mouth on Thursday and Friday over another Texas abortion bill. Think Progress wrote, Republicans were looking “criminalize abortion services after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.” Huffington Post wrote the glaring headline, “Six-Week Abortion Ban Introduced In Texas.” Salon said the bill would “face harsh criticism and fierce opposition from the thousands of Texans rallying against the Republican-controlled Legislature’s efforts to eliminate access to safe abortion care in the state.” Raw Story had a similar post.

 There are two problems with how House Bill 59 is being characterized:

  1. The bill won’t be debated this year: Republican State Representative Phil King released a statement saying there aren’t any hearings planned on the measure, and the bill won’t be considered until January 2015.

  2. The bill will probably never be law: The key text of the bill can be found in Section Two, where it says the subchapter can’t be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade; a federal or state court restores, expands or clarifies the authority the states have on abortion; or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed restoring, expanding or clarifying the authority the states have on abortion.

 The Supreme Court isn’t expected to decide on abortion ever again, and it’s unlikely a Constitutional amendment will ever be passed. To Think Progress and Salon’s credit, they have edited their stories to point out Section Two of the bill. HuffPost and Raw Story have not.

 Similar outrage happened with Texas House Bill 2, where opponents claimed all abortion would be banned after 20 weeks and almost all abortion clinics in Texas would have to close. However, Subsection 171.046 says abortion can be done if “in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment,” there is a condition that affects the woman’s health or the child has severe fetal abnormality. Section 11, part b gives clinics until September 2014 to meet the new standards or else they won’t be allowed to perform abortions.

 It’s understandable the abortion issue (and any social issue) causes a ton of emotion. But people need to be armed with the facts, before debating the merits of a particular bill or law. If they don’t, then there’s no point to any debate because it will only end in harsh words, hurt feelings and damaged relationships.

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