By Karen Huynh
The Heartbeat Act, which became effective on Sept. 1, 2021, addresses abortion access for women in Texas and how physicians will carry out the procedure. The bill defines a fetal heartbeat as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contractions of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.” Before performing an abortion, physicians are required to assess the fetal heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected, the abortion process cannot proceed unless it is deemed a medical emergency. While many news outlets state that Texas’ heartbeat bill prohibits abortions after six weeks, this is not completely accurate. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as five and a half weeks.
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When determining whether a woman can get an abortion, the physician must document the estimated gestational age of the unborn child, the method used to determine this and the test used to determine the presence of a fetal heartbeat. The date, time and results of the fetal heartbeat test must also be documented. If an abortion is performed due to a medical emergency, the physician must state the medical rationale on the necessity of the procedure and the woman’s medical condition.
Karen Huynh is a sophomore studying physiological science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She plans on applying to PA school after graduation and pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant. She is the healthcare policy team lead at OUR NATIONAL CONVERSATION (ONC) and has been with the organization since May 2021.
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Chertoff, J. (2018, September 26). When Can You Hear Baby’s Heartbeat? Healthline; Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/when-can-you-hear-babys-heartbeat#Babys-heartbeat
Texas Heartbeat Act, S.B. No. 8, (Tex. 2021) https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB8/id/2395961