Two years ago, Texas shocked the world.
The Heartbeat Act went into effect in September 2021, prohibiting abortions after the detection of a child’s heartbeat, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, a state could protect preborn children in the first trimester.
It was a worthy precursor to the cultural earthquake that followed nine months later, when Dobbs forever changed the abortion landscape of the United States.
People said it couldn’t be done, that a law modeled on a novel legal idea was a fool’s errand. Yet both our organizations — Human Coalition and the Texas Pregnancy Care Network — supported it. How could we not? Courts for decades had prevented states from exercising their sovereign duty to protect children in the womb; we owed it to every single one of these vulnerable children to do the right thing.
Yes, the work of serving women and supporting them as they rescue their children from abortion has been, and always will be, the foundation of the pro-life movement. Our staff see women at possibly the most vulnerable moments of their lives, cases where women feel that aborting their child is their only option.
But the fact remains that laws and policies such as the Heartbeat Act are also necessary to prevent as many abortions as possible, so we also support these lifesaving measures.
In the months that followed the implementation of the act, abortions in Texas fell, and more than 1,000 lives were saved each month. Then once the Supreme Court revoked Roe nine months later, recorded abortions dropped. Estimates vary, but the number of lives saved by the act could be around 10,000. It was arguably the most successful pro-life law to survive the legal effects of Roe.
Yet this seismic success would not have been possible without a strong network of pro-life leaders, including our two organizations. Without our teamwork, the critical advocacy of civic leaders, and the fearless leadership of public officials, this landmark pro-life law would not have happened.
Of course, the law was really only half the battle. We knew that women would still seek abortion after it went into effect. Why? Women often feel pressured to abort because of economic and social difficulties, such as poverty, domestic abuse, or lack of support from friends and family. Of Human Coalition’s clients, 76 percent say they would prefer to parent if their circumstances were different. The Heartbeat Act would not erase these difficulties.
Knowing that Texas women seeking abortion in the wake of the Heartbeat Act would have a myriad of tangible needs, we worked with legislative leaders to scale up assistance. The legislature expanded Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum, and in 2021 funded the Alternatives to Abortion program at $100 million for two years — with another $25 million added to this year’s budget cycle and $140 million authorized for 2024-25. We have both been honored to contract with this 17-year-old program that helps provide women true, life-affirming alternatives to abortion and aims to improve maternal and child health.
By establishing both a law that protected precious lives and a strong material safety net for vulnerable women, Texas truly became a leader for how states should respond to the needs of women everywhere post-Dobbs. We are extraordinarily proud to have been part of this effort.
We want to commend other states that have implemented lifesaving laws and increased support for vulnerable mothers. Some states had enacted “trigger” laws that went into effect upon the repeal of Roe, protecting children in the womb. Other states, such as Florida, Iowa, and South Carolina passed “heartbeat” bills this year to protect children at early stages. Florida boosted funding of pregnancy centers to $25 million, and Tennessee is funding pregnancy centers at $20 million.
No two pro-life organizations are the same in their goals, approaches, or philosophies. We have had our disagreements in the past, but there is a quality we both share that transcends any differences between us: a ceaseless desire to save lives, to shelter vulnerable women from the horrors of abortion, and to minister to families scarred by abortion. Our currency with our clients is trust.
Our work is not slowing down. We know we won great victories with the Texas Heartbeat Act and Dobbs, but those wins are not the end of the story. In order to continue to prevent abortion and to provide support to all of the mothers who rescued their children from the destruction of abortion, we as a movement must be united as never before.
We are proud to call each other partners in our fight for life, the life of every preborn child threatened by abortion, and the life of every mother irrevocably wounded by her broken motherhood. Reflecting on these last two years, we are grateful for the work of pro-life advocates who made this law possible, and we look forward to a future where we can continue our work of serving vulnerable women so they can save the children in their wombs.