Yesterday, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed into law one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bills yet.
Senate Bill 8, aka the Texas Heartbeat Bill, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It doesn’t specify a timeframe, but heartbeats can be detected as early as 6 weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. For a woman with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only 2 weeks after a missed period. Let that sink in. When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban basically bans abortion outright.
The law specifically requires that abortion providers check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, and bans them from carrying out the procedure if one is detected. It makes exceptions “if a physician believes a medical emergency exists,” but not for instances of rape or incest, citing that “public and private agencies provide … emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest.” Yes, you read that correctly. NO EXCEPTIONS for incest or rape.
We know that there have always been and will always be debates about “when life begins.” That’s not the can of worms I want to open right now. But I think the perception that a 6 week old embryo has the same value as an older fetus or a living child is absurd. Equating a heartbeat to being a person is ultimately just Christian emotional manipulation, and privilege. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Your personal religious beliefs do not govern the lives of ALL. Freedom of religion means if something is against your religion, it’s not okay for YOU. Not, if something is against your religion it’s not okay for ME. I am pro-choice politically, but pro-life personally. Unless my life or the baby’s life were in danger, I personally would never make the choice to have an abortion. That’s an emotional/moral stance. My emotions/morals/religious beliefs do not dictate how others live, and that is a choice I can only make for myself, not others.
The moral majority has forever pushed their anti-choice agenda on the world, because “all life is precious.” But do they really believe that? Or is this just the hill they want to die on because it makes them “look good?” This statement sums it up perfectly:
“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus, but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”
― Methodist Pastor David Barnhart
But here’s the real kicker: The law is only enforceable by non-lawmakers. What this law does is allow for civil charges to be brought against anyone who provides abortions after the detection of fetal heartbeats, as well as anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise,” after the onset of a fetal heartbeat. Those found guilty would face a $10,000 fine for each abortion performed or facilitated. The bill would allow nearly anyone other than a Texas government official to file a lawsuit regarding any abortion they believe violates the heartbeat ban. The only other exception added is that a man who impregnated a woman through rape or incest would not be able to sue.
This bill is unique in that it gives individual citizens the ability to sue abortion providers, rather than having government agencies enforce the law. And again, it’s not just the performing provider that can be sued. Anyone from an abortion clinic’s front-desk staff to a person who drives someone to the clinic also falls under the umbrella of this law. Additionally, a person does not have to be connected to the individual who had an abortion or the provider in order to sue. Essentially, any individual could sue an abortion provider if they perform an abortion after six weeks.
Drucilla Tigner, a policy and advocacy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the law is “the most extreme abortion ban in the country.” “Not only does this ban violate more than half a century of Supreme Court caselaw, it paves the way for anti-choice extremists to use our court system to go after anyone who performs abortions or considers supporting a person that has one,” Tigner said in a statement.
So what is the point of all this you ask, if the person getting the abortion can’t be punished criminally? Well, the point is clear and staggering: it is to scare abortion providers, their employees, and any person that aids a woman in getting access to abortion from doing their part.
Leaders of Texas abortion funds — which help pay for the procedure and related expenses for abortion seekers who cannot afford them — have denounced the bill as putting their organizations, as well as abortion seekers’ friends, in legal jeopardy. The bill “allows literally anyone, including non-Texas residents who maybe have zero connection to the person having an abortion, it allows them to use lawsuits to harass people who help people access abortion care after six weeks,” Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund, told CNN. “That would also obviously include us, as an abortion fund, who helps people access abortion care.”
“These are expensive. This is our time and our resources,” she said of hypothetical challenges against the group, which she noted does not have a legal budget. “If we were to be hit by frivolous lawsuits left and right, I mean, this would really prevent us from doing our work in a lot of ways.”
Which is precisely the point. Lawmakers think they can cut out abortion completely by eliminating it at the source. What these imbeciles don’t realize is that abortion has always happened, regardless of legislation, and will continue to happen in spite of it. Many of these extreme anti-abortion bills are conservative-led initiatives, passed with the intent that they’ll escalate to the Supreme Court and challenge (and potentially overturn) Roe v. Wade. And their efforts appear to be working: Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has a 6–3 conservative majority, said it would hear a case concerning a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. The Court is expected to make a decision by June 2022.
Of course, as he is signing this atrocious bill into law, Greg Abbott does his best to reiterate how abortions have just run rampant. When speaking he said “Millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives.” This statement is just completely inaccurate.
In 2018, the CDC reported 619,591 legal induced abortions. Of that number, 38.6% were early medical abortions (non-surgical abortion prior to 9 weeks gestation.) That’s 239,162, and that isn’t even accounting for medical abortions past the 9 week period.
Is it still a lot? Sure. But it’s not millions, and that kind of misinformation and fearmongering is will not help reduce the number of abortions. It just keeps them from being safe.
If you’re actually pro-life, then the life of the mother should matter as much as the life of the fetus. While this law amounts to nothing other than trying to scare healthcare providers out of performing abortions, it is another step towards overturning Roe V Wade. If that happened, that 619,591 would have to potential to double, because people will still get abortions. They’ll just do it at home themselves, or get it from an unlicensed provider, and so the mothers will be dying too a lot of the time.
Please, if you are actually pro-life, don’t support absurd legislation like this. Statistically, abortion rates have been lower under Democratic presidencies. Why? Because, just like you, they want to see abortion rates go as low as possible, but they don’t want more people dying in the process.
This also is a complete violation of bodily autonomy. Pregnancy is the ONLY situation where someone is forced to do something with their body against their will. You cannot be forced to donate organs, tissue, or even blood without your consent, even if it is the only thing that will save another life. Even after death, your body cannot be used to save another unless you consented to it when you were alive. So why is that not the case for pregnant women?
And if you still aren’t concerned about it, or truly believe abortion should not be available in any situation, then come at it from your capitalistic side. In addition to the deaths and disabilities caused by unsafe abortion, there are major social and financial costs to women, families, communities, and health systems. As reported by WHO:
Estimates from 2006 show that, in developing countries, the yearly cost for health systems include:
$553 million for treating complications from unsafe abortion.
$6 billion for treating post-abortion infertility.
A need for an additional $373 million, if unmet needs for treating complications from unsafe abortion were to be met.
Unsafe abortion can also lead to short- and long-term financial costs for women and ultimately entire families and communities. Annual cost estimates for developing countries include:
$200 million in out-of-pocket expenses of individuals and households, for the treatment of post-abortion complications, in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
$922 million in loss of income as a result of long-term disability, due to infertility or pelvic inflammatory disease caused by unsafe abortion.
So what is the answer? If banning abortions isn’t the right answer, then what is? The answer is PREVENTION. The way to eradicate abortion is to make it UNNECESSARY. How do we do that? Well, here are a few ways:
- Comprehensive sex education in our nation’s high schools, which includes medically accurate information about abstinence AND contraception.
- Insurance coverage and public funding for family planning services.
- INCREASED funding to Planned Parenthood, so that women can have access to the birth control and annual pap smears that they need.
- Overall insurance coverage for contraception.
- Greater access to emergency contraception (which prevents pregnancy and does not cause abortion)
- Programs to help curb domestic abuse and sexual violence.
- And my personal opinions: Eradicate purity culture, make condoms available and free in high schools, and birth control for men.
Now, let’s say we have ALL of those things, and a woman still ends up with an unintended pregnancy. What would be the steps to avoid an abortion in this circumstance? It comes down to one thing: ACTUALLY BE PRO-LIFE. Not just PRO-BIRTH. What’s the difference? Well, if you will oppose and fight against abortion because you want the baby to be born, but once that happens you no longer care about the welfare of that child, you’re PRO-BIRTH. If you are not concerned about the well-being of the poor, the homeless, kids in group homes and foster care, the veterans, the sick, and the victims of violence, you are PRO-BIRTH. Believe it or not, pro-choice people ARE actually pro-life. They just understand that outlawing abortion will never stop it, and instead want to work on preventing it. This means not just focusing on the fact that a child is born, but that it will have the care and support needed for the family to survive. One of the most common reasons for abortion is the inability to afford or properly care for a(nother) child. Many of these women do not want an abortion. But they feel they have no other options. They need help. This means things like:
- Programs for low-income women and families to ensure they have access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.
- Making sure all eligible children have access to Medicaid benefits.
To force a woman to give birth when she knows she has no means to take care of the child, and then judge and chastise her for accepting any kind of state or federal aid as a “handout” is some of the most inhuman and hypocritical behavior in the world.
Greg Abbott also said in a Facebook live stream that “the Texas legislature worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.” That’s lovely. What about the ravages of poverty? Of food deprivation? Of lack of healthcare? Of access to basic necessities? Of physical and mental abuse?
This legislation will not have the intended effect. Abortion is still healthcare, and is still legal in the state of Texas. Roe v Wade is still the law of the land, and no pen stroke from Greg Abbott can change that. You cannot circumvent a person’s Constitutional rights by requiring them to go into a state court when they’re facing a lawsuit from another citizen. That is a civil matter, and my hope is that no state or federal court would treat it as otherwise. The cruelty of this law and continued attempt to legislate a woman’s body is infuriating.
But what is almost just as infuriating is what a remarkable waste of resources this is. I won’t dive deep into the whole “how a bill becomes a law” thing, but it is not a simple process, and uses a lot of resources, including taxpayer money. If you want to learn more, you can always watch the infamous Schoolhouse Rock video, or check out the link at the bottom of the page.
So, we’ve already wasted government officials’ time and resources, which our tax dollars pay for. But also, our courts are now open to an onslaught of civil actions. By allowing anyone, anywhere to sue people involved in providing or obtaining an abortion, it opens the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits, as well as burying clinics under court cases and legal fees, and making it difficult for providers to remain open.
LET ME BE CLEAR: Banning abortion will not STOP abortion. It will however, cause more of other situations that our country is already overrun with, such as more babies being thrown in dumpsters, more babies being abused or killed by the parents, more children in the adoption and foster care system, more suicides, and more people dying from at-home or “back alley” abortions.
In addition, banning abortion is banning equality. Men break condoms, refuse to wear them, have multiple one-night stands with strangers, and at any time can change their mind about parenthood. Forcing a woman to give birth, while not forcing the man who got her pregnant to also be a parent, is the definition of sexism. If women are going to be punished for abortions, men should be punished for impregnating women and then skipping out. And if we’re gonna go with the “life begins at conception” argument, then those men need to be paying child support at that time if they’re not in a relationship with the mother, and regardless, also be financially responsible for half the charges of prenatal care and supplies needed for the baby.
But…no one wants to talk about that, do they?
The only way to reduce abortion rates in our country is to be pro-choice. You don’t have to morally agree with abortion to be pro-choice. That’s why it’s called “pro-choice” and not “pro-abortion.” It’s entirely possible to know in your own mind and heart that abortion is not a choice you would make, while at the same time understanding the fundamental fact that it’s not your place or right to make that decision for someone else. Whether “pro-life” or “pro-choice” the ultimate end goal is the same: To eliminate abortions. In order to do that, we must make them unnecessary, not punishable by law. We must also stop equating a 6 week old fetus to the life of a human child. They are not the same.
Don’t agree? I’ll leave you with this question to sit on. I am holding a 6 month old baby in one hand, and a petri dish with a fertilized embryo in the other. I MUST drop one, resulting in it’s demise. Which one would you tell me to drop?