Zero steps forward, 100 steps back
( Dona Ann McAdams // Instagram )
On this week’s episode of “What in the Handmaid’s Tale,” Texas banned abortions at six weeks of gestation. The Senate Bill 8 went into effect on Wednesday.
Six weeks into gestation equates to two weeks after a missed period, and oftentimes it’s too soon for people to even know whether or not they’re pregnant. The bill makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Not only that, but the near-total abortion ban hands the power to private citizens. If any individual suspects that someone is getting an abortion after six weeks, they can sue anyone who aids the recipient. This includes a friend giving a friend a ride to a clinic, health care workers, and of course, the providers themselves. There are already sites in place accepting anonymous tips, such as ProLife Whistleblower.
Abortion is a topic that has long divided America; it is woven into the fine line between church and state. Personal beliefs aside, this law is inarguably unconstitutional. From either side, it is undeniable that SB8 blatantly violates the constitution. This is largely because under the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to privacy, a woman’s choice to have an abortion is protected from the public eye.
Texas refused to mandate masks in a deadly pandemic, pointing to personal liberty. With this defintion of ‘personal liberty,’ why wouldn’t Texas lawmakers be pro-choice across the board?
Nearly fifity years since Roe v. Wade overrode Texas’ policies and made abortion a constitutional right, Texas is once again trying to impose excessive government regulations on women’s bodies. It is not a war on abortion; it is a war on women.
Instead of ending abortion as it may have hoped, Texas put an end to safe, accessible and affordable abortion. Before 1973, pregnant individuals were still making these unfathomably difficult decisions, just outside the lines of the law. They sought out doctors who valued a woman's right to decide, but while these doctors could offer privacy and trust, they couldn't guarantee safety. As a person with the ability to conceive, it's not hard to imagine how these women felt in foreign rooms sworn to secrecy. None of us want to have to open that door again.
And yet, Texan residents have to again travel to seek an abortion. However, not everyone has the luxury to do that. Most abortion restrictions impact low-income women and women of color the most. SB8 is no different. According to the Washington Post, a majority of poor women of a reproductive age in nine states live more than an hour away from the nearest facility, either in their state or a neighboring one. Many low-income women also don’t have cars or the time and money for bus or train rides, and they cannot afford to take time off work.
The stricter the laws, the greater the likelihood of clinics closing, and it becomes more difficult for women to obtain an abortion. The stricter the laws, the more economic pressure we put on these women when they are already harmed from systemic inequalities.
The slippery arguments that “Women should just use contraceptives” or “What about adoption?” are not realistic for everyone. Contraceptives can be difficult to come by, not to mention a solid sex education. A full-term pregnancy is a harrowing, time consuming and expensive experience--one that may curb a stable income because women take off work. These factors do not even take religious and societal implications into account.
When everyone woke up Wednesday and watched the news or opened Instagram, it seemed like this had happened overnight. I found myself wondering, how did this even happen? After four years of ear-splitting politics, we’ve grown accustomed to everything happening loudly right in front of us, for all of Twitter to see. This happened right under our noses. Lawlessness has crept to the shadows.
We need to hold our politicians accountable. Governor Abbott and other pro-life lawmakers in Texas should not get away with this. The Supreme Court cannot ignore the influential role its ignorance played in this decision. Their unsigned order read “We stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants' lawsuit.” Now is not the time for passivity from the highest court in the country. President Biden and others may be sharing their frustrations on social media, but we need to see these rights actually defended. No matter the issue, no matter the party most in power and no matter who you voted for, lawmakers need to be held accountable. We can criticize our government while still having hope that change is possible.
We will never know what brings each woman to make the personal decision to get an abortion. @gracieminabox shared the stories of 21 women and why they chose to get one (all 21 procedures were after 6 weeks and would now be denied).
Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence
The women’s stories ranged from being trapped in an abusive relationship, being raped in a group home, discovering their baby would be a stillborn and simply not being ready. All should be protected under the law. The pro-life “bounty hunters” seeking out venegance on these women will most likely never understand.
End Trigger Warning
While the Supreme Court did not take action ahead of the May signing, justices still have time to respond to the plaintiff’s efforts to halt the legislation. And still, many fear other states will follow suit and impose similar laws, as some politicians have already promised. All eyes will be on Mississippi as it fights its own battle to induce a six week ban. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, said they were "going to look more significantly at it," and when asked, Senate President, Wilton Simpson, claimed they were “already working on” a bill similar to Texas’.
The future of reproductive rights in America is uncertain. Even if the ban is eventually blocked, it will have a lasting effect on Texas and provide the foundation for other conservative states to enact similar regulations. By giving the power to citizens, courts could become overcrowded with pro-life advocates simply harassing abortion providers and activists. The state of clinics in Texas, and by proxy, the U.S., is in danger. If faced with lawsuits, clinics may need to hire lawyers for their defense. Clinics already operate on thin margins, and this kind of hit could cause many to close their doors.
If you’re feeling confused, angry and helpless, there are so many Americans right there with you. Here is a link of organizations working to fight the ban and/or support Texan women:
With this law comes a new reality that is uncertain and troubling. We must have hope that the people and politicians in Texas will rally together and support its women no matter the circumstances and we must do our part to help.