One of the most divisive and controversial topics in modern politics, abortion, was thrown into national news again this month due to its recent ban in Texas. Abortion is a medical procedure that intentionally terminates a pregnancy, typically in the first trimester. After abortion was legalized federally in the ‘70s, many never imagined conservative state governments would find loopholes around it.
On September 1st, 2021, Senate Bill 8 also known as the “Texas Heartbeat Act” signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbot came into full effect. This is one of the nation’s most restrictive reproductive rights laws to date since Roe v Wade legalized abortion in 1973. SB8 bans abortion “once an ultrasound picks up a heartbeat” or six weeks into a nine-month pregnancy, a time where many women are unaware of their pregnancy. Eighty-five percent of abortions in Texas will be affected by this bill. SB8 allows and encourages private citizens to sue healthcare clinics that provide abortions and anyone who “aids and abets” a woman in pursuing her abortion (this includes a family member, friend, and/or uber driver who provides transportation to the said clinic) for up to $10,000. SB8 does not provide exceptions in cases of rape and incest. This law has been brewing for many years, dating back to 2011 when two-thirds of the state’s Family Plan budget was cut and over 80 healthcare clinics that not only provide abortion but also birth control, IUDs, cancer checks, and more were closed.
After researching SB8, I decided it was important to hear the voices of my peers, (specifically women) at Frontier. When asked about her feelings on the matter one student said, “No matter your personal views on abortion, they are going to occur no matter the legal status of the procedure, and it is vital that they happen in the safest way possible. Banning abortions is not going to end them, and studies show that places without legal access to safe abortions, quality healthcare, and comprehensive sex education have drastically higher rates of abortions and maternal deaths.”
This ban is a major setback in women’s journey for reproductive rights, especially for low-income and minority women. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the “developed world”. 20.1 out of every 100,000 live births resulted in the death of the mother in the US in 2019, and this number would only increase under an abortion ban. In addition, in Texas, black women account for 11% of live births but 31% of maternal deaths. These disproportionate statistics are rooted in the subconscious biases of doctors and the age-old idea that “black women feel pain differently than white women”. Not only will women have to leave the state to find abortion care before six weeks, but many will carry the extra burden of finding a doctor they can trust. When asked how she felt about these statistics one student said, “at the end of the day, wealthy [epecially white] women will always be able to find a way to get an abortion, meaning none of the people who voted on this bill will ever be affected by it. Just think about what happened to Serena Williams [a wealthy, Olympic athlete] and how she was treated by doctors during her pregnancy and emergency C section.”
During times like these, many people feel like there is nothing they can do to help. These issues seem so much bigger than ourselves, especially if we aren’t directly impacted. It’s important to think about how if this bill could pass in Texas, other states may be going down the same path, and if the Supreme Court isn’t taking measures to help, it’s now in the hands of the people. Obviously, the most important and impactful thing we can do is vote. Vote for representatives and officials who respect the right to choose. But for the majority of high school students, this isn’t an option. Signing petitions, donating to organizations fighting the ban (will be linked below), and even just spreading information is the best many of us can do.
Ambar Pardilla and Arielle Avila. “20 Organizations Fighting the Texas Abortion Ban.”
The Strategist, 2 Sept. 2021, https://nymag.com/strategist/2021/09/texas-abortion-ban-2021-where-to-donate.html
Julia Hava and Eliza McLamb. “Abort Mission.” Spotify, Podcast, “Binchtopia”
If you are looking to learn more about the history of reproductive rights, I HIGHLY recommend this podcast episode!!!!!
Statement by President Joe Biden on Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Law SB8.
The White House,
The New York Times.