Faith leaders oppose ‘heartbeat bill’ measures at Texas Capitol

The sound of a beating heart from the womb can be a big moment for expecting parents, but that sound should not be used to set a new standard of law according to religious leaders who held a prayer circle at the Texas State Capitol.

The group of abortion rights supporters was part of a protest organized by the Texas Freedom Network.

"We will never give up our individual consciences, and religious freedom or our god-given right to choose," Rev. Erika Forbes, an interfaith minister from Dallas, said.

They oppose SB 8 and its companion bill, HB 1515, which would ban abortions when a heartbeat is detected. That can happen as early as four to six weeks after conception.

"The same people who are doing this are blocking contraception, they are blocking a lot of the neonatal care being given as part of public service, it’s like you can’t slam doors in people's faces without opening other doors," Rev. Jim Rigby with St. Andrews Presbyterian Church said.


Current abortion law is based on a Supreme Court ruling. Abortions are legal up to 20 weeks, but not after a period referred to as the point of viability. The legislation moving through the Texas legislature could be used to challenge Roe v Wade.

"And so we believe this bill goes to the basic premises of protecting life," said Mary Elizabeth Castle with Texas Values, which supports the heartbeat bills, which would also allow abortion providers to be sued. "What this Bill is about is protecting those babies, who a lot of times are just the innocent bystander, they haven’t even lived life yet, so we want to give them that chance of life."

Those opposed to SB 8 say the legal liability is too broad. It’s claimed that under the law a rapist could sue the family members of his victim if they recommend an abortion should be done. San Antonio pastor Andries Coetzee fears that the legal liability exposure could also apply to a church member.


"The relationship between a parishioner and a pastor is one of sacred trust and cannot be legislated. It cannot be legislated. As God alone is Lord of the conscience and not Cesar," said Coetzee who leads San Antonio - University Presbyterian Church.

SB 8 is expected to come up for a House floor debate Wednesday. In anticipation of that, a petition with the signatures of more than 200 physicians against the passage of the legislation was sent to the House Speaker.