Abort the Texas Abortion Law

Increased anti-abortion sentiment, demonstrated through the Texas abortion law, is a scary indication of what is to come for all women.

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By Nelli Rojas-Cessa

The Texas abortion law, a law stating that abortions are banned once “cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo,” recently went into effect after the Supreme Court refused to block it. This law is a blatant insult to the long history of the women’s rights movement and is an indirect violation of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive governmental restriction.

Cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, even if there is no heart at this stage of development. In many situations, a woman does not even suspect that she is pregnant until the fourth week, when she realizes that she may have missed her period. This timing only gives women two weeks to figure out that they are pregnant, determine whether they want to continue the pregnancy, or get an abortion. This interval is an extremely limited amount of time, especially since before the law was passed, at least 85 percent of the abortions in Texas happened at six weeks or later. Now, if a woman figures out she is pregnant after six weeks, she has no choice but to continue the pregnancy.

The Texas abortion law also fails to take into account that a large portion of the population consisting of teenagers, low-income women, women of color, and undocumented immigrants may not have direct access to abortions within the six-week deadline. As a result, many more may carry out illegal and unsafe abortions, causing serious mental and physical health consequences. For example, women who are denied an abortion are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety, lower self-esteem, and an overall greater dissatisfaction with life, which can translate into major risk factors for their children. Additionally, the law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The only exception the Texas abortion law does make is for “medical emergencies,” a term which is not defined. In fact, the law leaves it up to the doctor to make the final decision.

Furthermore, the Texas abortion law could mean the end of care for pregnant transgender and non-binary people. There are only six LGBTQ+ affirming health centers in the entire state of Texas, and most of them don’t specialize in LGBTQ+ health or provide hormones. Transgender care is particularly difficult to find, with people traveling hours to access health care. Many clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, are now in danger of closing from a lack of funding caused by reduced services (such as abortions) and threats of lawsuits. This risk means that the LGBTQ+ community will have an even more difficult time finding the specific healthcare it needs and that many will turn to unsafe or illegal hormones to transition.

The Texas abortion law also does not give officials the power to enforce the ban on abortions. Instead, it authorizes private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. A citizen can earn up to $10 thousand and get legal fees reimbursed as long as the case is won. Because the established procedure for challenging a state law is to sue officials charged with enforcement, there is now no one for the government to sue to block the law since state officials are not the ones carrying out the enforcement. This loophole avoids judicial review, a process in which the judicial branch reviews legislative actions that may violate one’s civil rights and blocks any law that violates the Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to curb the Texas abortion law gives a frightening implication that Roe v. Wade will fall after all these years. It takes five Justices to issue an order in similar situations, but in the case of the Texas abortion law, only four justices voted to block it. The other five Justices, who were all conservative, in the majority spoke about their decision in an unsigned order that focused more on the procedural aspect rather than the merits behind the law. They stated that the petitioners’ request to block the Texas abortion law did not meet certain procedural requirements. The Supreme Court insinuated that it will sanction states to create anti-abortion laws as long as the majority of the Court agrees with the objective of the law. By upholding the Texas abortion law, the Court also rejected 50 years of court precedent on the right to abort.

The Texas abortion law is not the only law that has come out recently in support of increased anti-abortion sentiment. A Mississippi abortion law, aimed to ban abortions following 15 weeks of pregnancy, was created in 2018. Though the Supreme Court has until early next year to decide on the Mississippi abortion law case, Roe v. Wade may be overturned if it follows the precedent the Texas Abortion Law created. The reversal of Roe v. Wade means that 22 more states may ban abortion outright. Four different states—Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Louisiana—currently even have abortion “trigger laws,” which will automatically make abortion illegal the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned.

A ban on all abortions brings no benefit to the mother or the child, making it more important than ever to fight for women’s reproductive rights. Start by attending marches and protests in support of the pro-choice movement, or write to your local representatives. Team up with pro-choice advocacy groups, such as ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or NARAL. It is time to stop the anti-abortion sentiment before it is too late.