AUSTIN, Texas (CNA) –– States continued a nationwide trend of enacting pro-life laws in 2021, with the Texas legislature passing a “heartbeat” bill this week, and Montana enacting funding restrictions on abortion providers.
The Texas state Senate on Thursday passed a ban on abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The measure now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk, where he is expected to sign it.
SB 8, introduced by state senators Bryan Hughes and Paul Bettencourt, passed the state senate by a vote of 18-12 on Thursday. The bill includes an exception for a medical emergency, but not for cases of rape and incest, according to the Texas Tribune. It would be enforced through private lawsuits and not government action.
The Texas Catholic Conference supported the legislation. A May 3 message from executive director Jennifer Allmon encouraged Catholics in the state to contact their legislators in support of the bill.
While other states, such as South Carolina, have passed similar “heartbeat” abortion bans, pro-abortion groups have challenged the laws in courts. A federal district court judge in March blocked South Carolina’s law from going into effect.
State legislatures around the country have introduced or enacted a slew of pro-life legislation in 2021. According to an April 30 report of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, 536 pro-life bills had been introduced in 46 states by the end of April, with 61 new pro-life laws.
Thursday, Montana’s governor Greg Gianforte (R) signed a pro-life funding bill introduced by state Rep. Amy Regier. The measure prioritizes public health care funding for clinics that do not provide abortions; it also clarifies that taxpayer dollars cannot fund abortion-related services.
Under the federal Title X family planning program, federal grants cannot fund elective abortions. However, the Biden administration is seeking to loosen regulations of funding abortion providers, with the aim of once again directing Title X funding to clinics that refer for abortions or are co-located with abortion clinics.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize the dangerous work of abortionists,” Denise Burke, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, stated on Thursday on Montana’s bill.
The legislation ensures “that Title X family planning funding and other healthcare funding streams are kept ‘separate and distinct from abortion-related activities,’” she said.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, withdrew from the federal Title X program in 2019 over the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule; the organization received an estimated $60 million in annual funding under the program.
The 2019 rule sought to separate Title X funding from abortion-related services, by prohibiting funding of clinics referring for abortions or clinics that also provide abortions. Once the Biden administration rolls back these restrictions as expected, Planned Parenthood is expected to benefit from Title X funding once again.