Volume XXIII

The Texas Heartbeat Act: How Private Citizens are Given the Power to Violate a Woman's Right to Privacy Through an Unusual Enforcement Mechanism

by Meredith Johnson

Nearly fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held that a woman’s “decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” is a fundamental right to which she is guaranteed privacy. The Texas Heartbeat Act (the “Act”) threatens to violate this right to privacy through its “unusual” and novel enforcement mechanism. Unlike other anti-abortion laws, in which the government is the enforcer, the Act cedes enforcement power to private citizens. Under the Act, private citizens are allowed and encouraged to invade the private life of pregnant women and sue any person or organization who helps her get an abortion.  If the private citizen claimant is successful, they can collect thousands of dollars in damages. Some other states, inspired by the creativity of the Act’s novel enforcement mechanism and determined to functionally overturn Roe, have begun drafting their own copycat anti-abortion laws …

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