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Texas' "heartbeat bill" doesn't make an exception for victims of rape or incest; health professionals say this could add to victim's trauma

The bill would make abortions illegal if a doctor can find a fetal heartbeat, which can happen as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy.
Credit: TEGNA

TEXAS, USA — The "heartbeat bill," also known as Senate Bill 8, has passed the State House and Senate. The only thing left for the bill that would ban abortions as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy is Governor Abbott’s signature. It wouldn't be enforced by public officials, but the bill allows any other person to sue a doctor who performs abortions.

The heartbeat bill is also controversial not only for the time frame restriction of 6 weeks but also because this bill doesn't make an exception for survivors of rape or incest.

Dr. Jeglic, sexual violence prevention researcher said, “sexual abuse is a trauma. Whether you've been raped, whether it's incest, and then if, as a result of this trauma, you then become pregnant, that is further traumatizing.”

She said that every year, between 17,000-32,000 people become pregnant through rape. The figures on incest aren’t as clear because many times, the survivors are children or it happens within the family and isn’t reported.

“Part of the process of not reporting is that shame and guilt that they somehow played a role in this, or if they report if it's incest, and could break apart the family," Dr. Jeglic said. 

The Hand-Up Network, a non-profit advocacy center in East Texas, said that they've seen a 50% increase in survivors seeking help in the past month. They would not say much about the heartbeat bill itself but want survivors to know that no matter what happens:

  • Plan B emergency contraception will remain an option.
  • Survivors should seek medical attention as soon as possible after sexual abuse (the prime window is 96 hours for adults and 120 hours for children).
  • There will be advocates on call to walk survivors through all of their options.

This bill also comes as we head into summer, a time when the Hand Up Network says sexual assault cases surge because people are staying home for longer periods of time.