It’s a great day for preborn babies and their mothers, both of which will now be saved from the tragedy of abortion, in Tennessee, Texas and Idaho!
On Thursday, August 25, trigger laws banning abortion in Tennessee, Texas and Idaho went into effect. Preborn babies in those states are now protected from the moment of conception under state law. All three states had heartbeat laws in place protecting babies after six weeks gestation, and now laws in those states protect babies beginning at fertilization.
Legal challenges in Texas and Idaho continue to wage on as the federal government attempts to invalidate pro-life laws in these states.
Two federal court rulings issued this week seem to suggest that abortion policy may once more be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court as federal judges in Idaho and Texas come to different conclusions regarding the interpretation of federal law and its application to state abortion policy.
Tennessee has been protecting preborn babies beginning at six weeks gestation since June 28 under the state’s heartbeat law.
Immediately following Roe’s reversal, the state attorney general filed a motion requesting the federal court lift its injunction on the state’s heartbeat bill, which restricted abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. On June 28, the court granted that request, and the heartbeat law went into effect, protecting preborn babies with a heartbeat.
Now the state’s trigger law banning most abortions has gone into effect, protecting babies from the moment of conception.
Under state law, the abortion ban could not go into effect until 30 days after Roe’s reversal. In July, the state attorney general determined that the 30-day clock did not start until the U.S. Supreme Court’s judgment was sent to the lower court – which did not happen until July 26. So on July 26, Tennessee’s attorney general announced that the effective date for the state’s trigger law was August 25.
Tennessee’s trigger law prohibits all abortions except when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Texas state law has been protecting preborn babies with a heartbeat since September 1, 2021.
Texas also has a trigger law that bans abortion 30 days after the reversal of Roe. Like Tennessee, the 30-day clock was not triggered until the Supreme Court issued its final judgment on July 26, establishing August 25 as the effective date for enforcing the law.
The Texas abortion law bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother and for severe health complications.
President of Texas Values Jonathan Saenz released this statement on the trigger law going into effect, “This is a great day for Texas and we can now truly say that life is a fully protected human right statewide.”
On August 19, Idaho’s heartbeat bill went into effect, protecting babies after six weeks gestation from abortion.
Idaho’s abortion trigger law restricts most abortions and provides an exception for when the life of the mother is at risk. According to state statute, that law goes into effect 30-days after Roe’s reversal. Like Texas and Tennessee, the Idaho law was not triggered until the Supreme Court issued its final judgment. The law took effect on August 25 but was limited by a federal judge and cannot be applied to emergency situations until the ongoing legal challenge is decided.
As reported previously by the Daily Citizen, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit to block Idaho’s trigger law from going into effect. The DOJ argued that the state trigger law conflicted with a federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) because the state law only permitted abortion in life-saving situations and not for all emergency situations.
The federal judge, in this case, issued his ruling on August 24, the day before the trigger law became effective. According to the judge, this federal law requires that a person receive medical care (under the federally funded Medicare program) when that individual’s life or health is at risk. The judge held there was a direct conflict with state law because state law only permits abortion when the life of the woman is at risk, not her health.
Interestingly, just one day earlier, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the federal law was not in conflict with state abortion law in Texas, which also includes an exception for the life of the mother, but not for the mother’s health. The judge held that the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for EMTALA was “unauthorized” and went beyond the text of the federal law. Based on that interpretation, the judge blocked enforcement of EMTALA guidance in Texas as applied to state abortion law.
The starkly different interpretations of federal law applied to state abortion policy suggest that the U.S. Supreme Court may once more be asked to step into the abortion debate. But this time in a much more limited capacity, specifically addressing the statutory interpretation of federal law.
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