Episode 203: The Heartbeat Bill – Saving 120+ lives every day

The Heartbeat Bill has passed. It is now the law of Texas, that medical professionals must test for a heartbeat, and if one is found, they cannot perform an abortion. Well, you know what they say? They say, “If you’re taking on the flack, you must be flying over the enemy.” And, as I speak, as I’m recording this episode, even now, the Republican Party of Texas website was hacked. And we’re in the process of rebuilding that. A lot of opposition. Well, today I’m pleased to have with me, the legislative director for the Texas Right to Life, John Sego.


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Jonathan Schober:
Give us a little bit of background. What is the Heartbeat Bill? Bring us up to speed on what it is, and what it means. And then, we’ll go through some of the questions that people may have as we’re sort of living in this new era with just a few days under the law.

Joe Saego:
Yeah. So the Texas Heartbeat Act was passed as Senate Bill 8 during the regular session and Senator Hughes and Representative Shelby Slawson filed and passed this bill. And, it is the strongest pro-life bill that our state has passed since Roe V. Wade in ’73. It is a very, very bold bill, and we’re very happy that it is actually saving lives today. And, we’ll see that it’s going to have some legal challenges in the future, but it prohibits effectively prohibits abortion after six weeks. Since it’s in effect and the legal attempts have not been able to stop it, we’re saving about 120 to 130 lives in Texas per day. So, it’s a significant piece of legislation, and we’re just so thankful for the leadership of Senator Hughes to get that one across the finish line.

Jonathan Schober:
Now, you have a background in bioethics. Walk us through a little bit because I think previous attempts have been sort of making the marker, three months or six months or whatever, this arbitrary timeframe. Give us a little… Put on your bioethicist hat. Why tie this to a heartbeat? What’s the philosophical of the ethical reason to tie that to a heartbeat?

Joe Saego:
Yeah. To be clear, the RBT platform and principles are very clear. We believe all elective abortion is unethical and our platform is very clear about that from the very beginning. And so, it’s a matter of legislative and political prudence of what types of policies can we pass that do a couple of things. One, is effective actually saves lives. Unfortunately, not all the pro-life bills that will be filed will be effective in saving lives, even though they’re built on pro-life principles. So, does this bill save lives? Does it help with the cultural conversation? Do we get to use this bill as a tool to educate our neighbors, maybe even some Democrats who don’t realize how extreme their party is, and educate them about what abortion is, what that child really is. And then, also, how does this legislation work with Roe V. Wade. We’re living in the shadow of Roe V. Wade, as you know.

And so, any bill that we pass related to abortion, we need to be mindful. Is this getting closer to our legal goal or further away? And, the heartbeat act does all three of those things. Like I said, it bans abortion at six weeks, so it’s saving hundreds of lives a day. It gets us to talk about the heartbeat and that’s why this has so much support in the grassroots, and so much support in the Capitol is because heartbeat is… There’s really simple, moral logic to it. If you are jogging in the morning and you see someone on the ground off to the side of the track, you stop and you check for a pulse, you essentially try to hear a heartbeat. That’s the sign of life, and that determines our moral obligation, that determines the urgency of protecting this individual, getting them medical attention. That’s a really crucial thing, and everybody understands that.

To highlight that pre-born children before abortion have a heartbeat extremely early in embryology, in their embryos logical development, that’s extremely important to highlight the humanity of the child because you know what the Democrat party is trying to do. They’re trying to actually run away from the science in here and try to say this is a blob of tissues. This isn’t human enough for us to care about it. We don’t need to worry about what it feels, what the baby has, how far in development it is. And, this is another chance of… There’s an easy conversation here of, “Okay, a heartbeat.” That seems pretty humanizing. And so, there was great testimony from medical experts and women in the Senate actually playing the heartbeat in their testimony, playing the heartbeat of a child after 20 weeks and before six weeks.

And, they sound the same. It’s a sign life. The last point I’ll make on that is for the heartbeat, whenever a couple realizes that they’re expecting, and they go to the doctor, the doctor wants to try to find a heartbeat because if you can find a heartbeat, there’s a 90% chance that that child is going to be healthy, and grow all the way until delivery until they’re full term. And so, that heartbeat is a really good indicator that this is life, and this is viable life, and this child is actually healthy as long as we don’t go out of our way to commit an act of violence against it in abortion. So, it’s a really common, easy thing to understand. And, we saw that a lot of people who maybe don’t like to engage on the issue, were really taken back, and had to think about, “Okay, this child, even as early as six weeks has a heartbeat.” That’s pretty important, morally.

Jonathan Schober:
Talk a little bit about the strategies within the pro-life movement. I do think that there are some of those that really are all or nothing. And, I am pro-life. I absolutely believe that life begins, human humanity begins at conception. But also, there’s reality of where I live in. So, walk us through just a little bit, even within Republicans and pro-life movements, just maybe talk about that tension of why it is important to have an incremental win in this movement.

Joe Saego:
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. If any of your audience members have been to the RPT convention and the last six or eight years, they’ve heard some type of debate about this. When it comes to abortion, what are we doing as far as the message we send to the legislature? And, there are some of my friends who, like you and I, oppose abortion, and want to stop all elective abortions, but they feel like passing something like the Heartbeat Act, something like the 20 week Prohibition, that that’s not enough, and that actually violates our principles by settling for less than an all-out ban. I agree that if we were talking in a vacuum about what laws do we want to start out with, then that’s a good conversation, is why would we stop with halfway measures? But, the reality is, we live with Roe V. Wade.

We live with a limited ability to actually stop all elective abortions in our society. So, my organization is dedicated to saving as many lives as possible, but also passing legislation that helps us get closer to overturn Roe. We can’t ignore Roe, and say, “Oh, I just wish it wasn’t there.” But, we also can’t pass up opportunities to save lives. And so, we usually pass legislation that is trying to save lives and then help the Supreme Court see that it is adopted some erroneous precedent in Roe and subsequent cases. And so, we want to pass bills that actually push on these cracking points in the foundation of Roe. The idea of viability is one of them. Thankfully, there’s a case in front of the Supreme court that there’ll be hearing this fall, the Dobbs case out of Mississippi, where they’re actually looking at that exact question.

And, that is the result of strategic legislation that is trying to give examples to the Supreme court, “Hey, you have made a mistake. This is bad legal logic. This is bad ethical reasoning. This is not compliant with the constitution as it should be interpreted.” But, we have to give the court opportunities. And so, I think the Texas legislature has done a great job of that, of passing legislation that really pushes that line, saves lives, but puts the right cases in the hopper to force the Supreme court to deal with their mistake in Roe. But, some of our friends don’t like that. They want to say, “No, you stand your ground. And, you say the legislature should only pass a bill that bans all elective abortions.

I don’t think that’s legally prudent with the Supreme court that we have. I also don’t think that we can afford that, politically, because we need to remind Republicans what are the reasons they vote Republican is to save lives. So, we’ve got to do that every session. Sometimes I hear from elected officials that are saying, “Haven’t we done enough, we passed these bills every other session.” My response is no, we haven’t done enough. Abortion is still legal. And, we still have more on the table, more we can do to save lives and get us closer to a post Roe world. I think this is evidence that that incremental approach is actually saving lives. We heard from planned parenthood earlier this week that they had a stop 85 to 90% of their abortions. That is a phenomenal number.

Jonathan Schober:
Abortion is just a small part of what they do, so that really should be insignificant to them because they only do like 20% of their businesses in abortion. So, no problem. 80% as a business is just fine. Right?

Joe Saego:
I also had a reporter asked me if I thought planned parenthood was going to go bankrupt, and I pointed that out, like you just said. They say it’s only 3%. How could they stop 3% of what they do and go bankrupt. You’re right. It doesn’t quite line up with, [inaudible 00:11:30]

Jonathan Schober:
It doesn’t quite line up. Well, there are some, I won’t say unique. They’re unique, but certainly not unprecedented ways that we’ve crafted this legislation in terms of how we are taking action. I think there’s a lot of misconception. People saying that you can sue the moms, and bounty hunters, and this kind of stuff. Walk us through, again, the unique aspects, but not unprecedented of how this is being enforced or who is given standing in the court.

Joe Saego:
Right. Yeah. And so, that is one way that we’ve been able to be successful where other states have not, is that we actually prohibited state officials from enforcing this law. And so, we’ve actually said, “Attorney general, this is not your job.” Medical board, Health and Human Services Commissioner. You’re not supposed to go to planned parenthood, and knock on their door and tell him to comply with this law. In fact, what we’re going to do is prohibit you from doing that, and instead, tell private citizens that they have standing to bring lawsuits against individuals they believe are violating the law. Like you said, it’s not unprecedented. We do this in several public policy areas. Medicaid fraud is a really great example. We said that individuals are going to have better sight into Medicaid fraud, then the government. Okay, so Medicaid fraud, you can hide it from the government, but it’s going to be hard to hide it from your patients or from individuals that work for you.

And so, we actually say, if you think someone is committing Medicaid fraud, you can bring a lawsuit in court, and if you prove that they did break the law as much money as the government gets back, you get a percentage of that. Now, whenever we did this, it was protecting a public good. Nobody said this was bounty hunting. Nobody said this was a vigilante justice, right? Nobody was worried that if I’m mad at my doctor, because he didn’t do something I want, I’m going to go sue in frivolously for Medicaid fraud. That doesn’t happen. And, people weren’t worried about that. It’s a legitimate public policy tool to create private causes of action. And so, that’s what we did in Senate Bill 8. And, every individual has standing. If you have reason to believe you can’t just make wild accusations, but if you have reason to believe someone’s violating a law, you have standing to bring that suit.

Now, you’re still going to have to prove it to a judge. It’s not going to be easy. You still have to present evidence. He’s still going to have standards of evidence. You’re still going to have to do witnesses and testimony and stuff, but at the end of the day, if you prove it, that they violated the law, there’s at least a $10,000 penalty. And, there’s other options. Injunctive relief to stop him from continuing to violate the law. But, that can only be brought against someone who is committing abortion against the law or someone who is aiding and abetting in a prohibited abortion.

You can’t go after the mother. You can’t go after the Uber driver. We’ve heard that one, is that there’s some Uber driver that’s just going to be trying to make a buck on a side hustle, and ended up being in court. Well, you have to prove that he knowingly materially assisted in the illegal activity. So, he’s got to know why this woman is going to that building. He’s got to know how far in pregnancy she is, and that the individual in that building is planning to commit a prohibited abortion. That’s a pretty high bar to prove in court. So, some of this rhetoric is crazy.

Jonathan Schober:
As someone that’s been an Uber driver, I certainly don’t know that much information about my rights.

Joe Saego:
And, you don’t want to.

Jonathan Schober:
We have bigger problems if they know that much information about the rider. Maybe Uber should be, protecting the privacy of their riders or something like that.

Joe Saego:
So, yeah, it’s private cause of action. And really, the goal is to comply. It’s to get them to comply, which they’re doing. It’s to make it so that they don’t want to perform abortions after six weeks, we don’t need to bring lawsuits. Well, that’s not really our intention is just to get all these lawsuits running. Our intention, like the Republican party platform, is to protect innocent human life from the violence of abortion. And, thankfully, for the last two weeks that’s been going on in Texas.

Jonathan Schober:
Now, the next thing is… Hopefully, there’s going to be more lives that are going to be born. Now, that might mean that there may be some children, and again, I’ll just share my story. I’m a product of an illegitimate pregnancy. I was born out of wedlock. I was given up for adoption. So, this is very personal to me. It was ’71, so it was pre… I’ve just given my age, now. It was pre Roe. But, I do think that there is a question of, with more children being born potentially to two mothers or parents that can’t care for that. From a public policy perspective, what are some things that we can do to help adoption or foster care, or just pregnancy support? I think that there is a balancing act in what Texas’ Right To Life doing and advocating really on the back end of this of supporting these children.

Joe Saego:
Yeah. If your audience wants to see some of this, you just open up the platform, and read the health section because it has not just clear that we want to say no to abortion, it makes clear, we want to say yes to that woman. We want to say yes to supporting her. And so, one of the big items that’s in the platform that we always add to our agenda every session is the alternatives to abortion funding. And so, this is a state funded program of social services. So, we’re covering medical services. We invest half a billion dollars in women’s health services on the medical side, but we also need to fund the social service side, so that women are getting the counseling. They’re getting the training to be a parent. They’re getting even employee training. How do you create a resume?

How do you fill out an application? Things that are helpful for the woman to be successful, and this not to be a barrier to her. And so, maternity homes, adoption agencies, those are all supported through that alternatives to abortion. This last session, they actually allocated a hundred million dollars for the biennium into that program. That’s the highest amount that any state has ever put towards those social services for pregnant women. So, that’s the government side. There’s things like that. We can do foster care reform, adoption reform. There’s some great Republican leaders that are always working on this. Representative Frank, Representative [Clint 00:18:25] are constantly bringing these issues to the front of our mind as a party, but also privately.

We have these pregnancy centers, we have these pro-life ministries across the state that need help. That needs support, and need more volunteers. I got a call on the first day of the bill being in effect. I got a call from a friend of mine who works at a pregnancy center, and she was saying, “We share a parking lot with planned parenthood.” Well, actually it wasn’t planned parenthood it was a different abortion provider, but “We share a parking lot, and they are turning away women, about 50 a day, who would typically go get their abortion. And so, this is in addition to their typical women walking into the pregnancy center doors. More women are walking towards that pregnancy center and they needed help. And so, we helped them recruit.” But, everywhere in the state, there are these pregnancy centers, these maternity homes that need volunteers, need private donations. The government is not the only solution, obviously, to creating a pro-life society, but you’re right. It’s time for us pro-lifers-

Jonathan Schober:
Government really never create solutions. I think there’s another thing that we could agree on is we’re not looking to the government to solve the problem, but I think…

Joe Saego:
But, we’ve got these great non-profits that need more help.

Jonathan Schober:
And, this also goes to the compromise. I have no problem spending… First of all, I think it needs to note a hundred million dollars… That’s not chump change, that is in this evil Republican state that did this horrible thing, a hundred million dollars. And again, I’m a fiscal conservative. there’s a lot of things. I think our government is wasting money on, but absolutely. Will I spend a hundred million dollars to save 150 to 200 children a day? Absolutely. No questions asked about it. I think that that goes into… At the end of the day, you have to have these these philosophical compromises, because it’s one thing to talk in academics, and have these very theoretical conversations, but if you’re not actually doing something about it, then babies are dying, and there’s no other way to put it. Are there some resources, or some places that you can go through to have a conversation to find help, and to find resources?

Joe Saego:
Yeah. So, the easy one… Texas Right To Life on our site, we have a directory of pregnancy centers, texasrighttolife.com. But, one of the great organizations we partner with is the Texas pregnancy care network. They run a network of social services across the state, and they are expanding. This organization has blown up in the last five years. They are reaching more and more, partnering with those local maternity homes, adoption agencies, pregnancy centers. So, Texas Pregnancy Care Network is a great place to go to. But, wherever your audience is, just Googling your town and pregnancy resource center, you will find what nonprofit, it might be related to a church ministry, it might be independent, is trying to meet those women where they are every day in your community. And, that’s definitely something that your audience should be aware of, and that’s how we show we’re pro-life, not just voting for Republicans, but actually getting out there and supporting these nonprofits that are really trying to live out our pro-life values.

Jonathan Schober:
I think that’s very important. Well, we’re going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I do want to ask you one last question, and the question is going to be what keeps you up at night?

[BREAK]

Jonathan Schober:
Welcome back. I have with me, the legislative director for the Texas Right To Life, John Saego. And, we’ve been talking about Senate Bill 8, and the Heartbeat Bill, and the fact that we are literally saving hundreds of lives each and every day because of this, but what I’d like to do, and you can broaden the scope in your answer. As you sit here and you’re looking at the things that are going on in public policy in your life, what is it that keeps you up at night?

Joe Saego:
Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I personally am concerned about is what do we do after the abortion laws passed? We passed a trigger ban this session, saying if Roe V Wade is overturned, all electrical abortions will be illegal except for the physical health of the mother. And so, the big question on my mind is will Republicans unite to create a pro-life society in addition to saying no to abortion? There’s a lot of ways we can do that. There’s a lot of ways that we can use the government. There’s a lot of ways we can get the government out of the way, so nonprofits can serve our state, and be more pro-life. That’s one thing that I think is really an unanswered question is whether the Republicans can actually live out our full pro-life vision for society, and not just stopping abortions, seeing some promising developments on that end of actually ending elective abortion, but there’s a lot more work to do.

Jonathan Schober:
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for what you’re doing, the work of your team and really everyone in the pro-life community is doing. Once again, what’s the website for the Texas Right To Life?

Joe Saego:
Yeah, texasrighttolife.com. You can also find us on all the social media platforms, at this point. We have not been kicked off of those yet. We got kicked off of our internet server, but we’re all back up and running. At the moment, texasrighttolife.com is the best place to go.

Jonathan Schober:
I think I’ll leave that as a call to action. Get involved with your local pregnancy resource. At the end of the day, it’s grassroots, it’s meeting the needs of individuals. So, let’s land with that. If you’re relying on some big organization that potentially can be shut down and censored by big tech, you need to do your part to engage in the community. Well, thanks again, John, I really do appreciate it.

Joe Saego:
Thanks for having me.

Jonathan Schober:
Well, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast, you can learn more at texasgop.org/podcast. If you do have any comments or questions or suggestions for future episodes, you can text me directly at 512-729-5712.

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Paid for by Texas Political Training and Empowerment PAC and not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

The post Episode 203: The Heartbeat Bill – Saving 120+ lives every day appeared first on Republican Party of Texas.

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