Niamh Walsh examines the Texas abortion ban and its implications for women’s reproductive rights.
The Texas abortion law, also known as Senate Bill 8, is a new law that went into effect on Wednesday 1st September; legally empowering private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion in the state of Texas. With no challenge from the U.S. Supreme Court, the law bans abortion as soon as embryonic cardiac activity is detectable, which is around six weeks – providing no exceptions for cases of rape or incest; a devastating blow to women’s individual rights in Texas.
Senate Bill 8 is not the first attempt to pass a “heartbeat bill” in the US. Multiple other states have endeavoured to pass similar laws but were blocked by federal courts. What makes this Texas version distinctive is its passing through the US Supreme Court without objection due to its ambiguous design. Instead of requiring public officials to enforce the law, it allows for individuals to bring civil lawsuits against abortion providers or anyone else found to “aid or abet” illegal abortions, making the law extremely hard to block. Whilst abortion providers normally sue the state to stop a restrictive abortion law from taking effect, there’s no state official enforcing Senate Bill 8, and therefore no one to sue.
Furthermore, this ban on abortion is a systemic way to perpetuate poverty, as bans disproportionately affect poor and BIPOC women. Abortion bans keep people in poverty by restricting social mobility, usually at the hands of wealthy, white men. Pro-life rhetoric is legislating who can and can’t have abortions, keeping people trapped in poverty for generations as they have no access to what should be classed fundamental health care.
Banning abortion from as early as 6 weeks is a dystopic exercise of control over female bodies.
Access to abortion is and should be treated as a basic human right. Banning abortion from as early as 6 weeks is a dystopic exercise of control over female bodies. Most women are not even aware that they are pregnant at this stage of gestation, practically placing a complete ban on all abortions within Texas. The Republican governor who signed the law into place, Gov. Greg Abbott, has claimed that this legislature “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion”. But realistically, this abortion ban is most certainly not about protecting life. It is not pro-life; it is pro-control. If the Texan government truly cared about life, then access to abortions would be made simple. Restricting abortion doesn’t stop abortion, it just makes abortion less safe. Abortion is a private and personal decision that does not affect anyone other than the person making that choice. No politician, in particular a man, should decide what women can and cannot do with their reproductive system.
Texas won’t force a 12-year-old to wear a mask at school, but they’ll force her to have a baby.