IMPORTANT UPDATE: On October 6, US District Judge Robert Pitman has temporarily blocked the abortion ban. However, there is still no clarity on whether the decision is final or will be further challenged.
On September 1, the new abortion ban came into effect in Texas, USA, which sparked heated debates about ethics, women’s rights, and public health. As a result, Texan doctors are now prohibited from performing abortions past the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which usually occurs at six weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, the law encourages reporting individuals requesting abortion services past the allowed term and medical professionals who perform such procedures. Unfortunately, the pro-life movement is rapidly growing, and legislators from Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, and many other Southern states are seriously considering adopting Texas-style curbs on abortion.
Initially, it was thought that the ban would not pass, as it directly contradicts the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Numerous experts expressed their concerns, calling the Texas abortion law unconstitutional. Also, public rallies were held all over the USA in order to draw attention to the issue and protest the legislation. Yet, with the vote of 5 judges against 4, the Supreme court has decided to abstain from blocking the new Texas legislation in September of 2021.
So why is the law so problematic?
- Six weeks is too soon for a woman to know that she is pregnant.
Under the previous law, the Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteed up to 24 weeks for women to decide whether to undergo an abortion or not. If unfamiliar with women’s reproductive health, it is important to consider that a six-week term implies only one missed period. There are myriad factors that can delay one’s period, starting from too much stress and poor diet to hormonal imbalances and serious illnesses. One missed period is not a substantial enough reason for scheduling a doctor’s appointment or buying a pregnancy test unless a woman is actively trying to conceive, has a serious reproductive health condition, or is sure she had been exposed to unprotected sex.
- The new law does not protect victims of rape.
Under the new legislation, only grave health reasons are a valid pass for abortion after the detection of fetal cardiac activity. If a woman is pregnant as a result of rape, even in cases of incest, she cannot legally receive abortion services in Texas. Thus, a woman has no choice but to raise an unwanted child or deal with living her life knowing she had to give up a child for adoption.
- Overpopulation and overloaded child services.
If a woman is forced to birth a child while lacking resources to raise one, it is likely that she decides to leave it to the child services. With more women unable to terminate unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, the state adoption services would be overloaded, and it is not guaranteed that all those children would receive proper care or ever find a loving family.
It is clear that the ban mostly affects marginalized and underprivileged groups, as women are forced to seek abortion services outside of the state. This does not only imply higher financial costs for the medical treatment but also raises the issue of moving since a woman would also need to spend money on transportation and accommodation. Certainly, not every person with a minimum wage job, or with no job at all, would be able to afford the aforementioned.
Overall, the ban not only goes against democratic principles and women’s and children’s rights but also sets a dangerous precedent for meddling with fundamental human rights. There are some ongoing attempts to reverse the ban, including the Satanic Temple group trying to invoke the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the new abortion law, however, it is not certain that any of them would be successful. For now, one can just hope that other states will not manage to recreate the Texan experience.
- WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. AUSTIN REEVE JACKSON, JUDGE, ET AL. ON APPLICATION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF. [online] Available at: <https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/21a24_8759.pdf> [Accessed 1 October 2021].
Braid, A., 2021. Texas Abortion Provider. [online] Available at: <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/18/texas-abortion-provider-alan-braid/> [Accessed 1 October 2021].
Newsweek. 2021. Florida and 5 other GOP–led states consider Texas–style curbs on abortion. [online] Available at: <https://www.newsweek.com/republican-states-texas-style-restrictive-curbs-legislation-abortion-florida-1625876> [Accessed 1 October 2021].
Nytimes.com. 2021. Answers to Questions About the Texas Abortion Law. [online] Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/health/texas-abortion-law-facts.html> [Accessed 1 October 2021].
The Conversation. 2021. How the Satanic Temple is using ‘abortion rituals’ to claim religious liberty against the Texas’ ‘heartbeat bill’. [online] Available at: <https://theconversation.com/how-the-satanic-temple-is-using-abortion-rituals-to-claim-religious-liberty-against-the-texas-heartbeat-bill-167755> [Accessed 1 October 2021].