On September 1st, 2021, Texas officially began the legal practice of essentially banning abortions. The most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. was passed in May of 2021, much to the horror of many women across Texas and the rest of America. The law states that any abortion in Texas is prohibited once the fetus’s heartbeat can be detected. Typically, a fetal heartbeat can be found about six weeks after conception; this is before some mothers even know that they are pregnant, only leaving time for one or two missed periods.
In Texas, 85-90% of mothers needing an abortion have already passed the six-week mark. Thus, any abortion before six weeks is nearly impossible for all practical purposes, with no exceptions to the law for extreme cases such as rape or incest. According to Governor Greg Abbott, the legislation “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
Furthermore, Texas enacted policies along with this law that allow and encourage citizens of the state to sue anyone whom they suspect of performing or facilitating unauthorized and illegal abortions. For every won lawsuit regarding an illegal abortion, a reporting Texan can earn $10,000. In addition to lawsuits, Texans can submit anonymous tips regarding alleged violations of the abortion law. A spokesperson for the owner of the tip hotline, Texas Right to Life, explained that the abortion “lawsuits are not against the women, [but rather] against the individuals making money off of the abortion, the abortion industry itself.”
The novelty of the abortion law has sparked political controversy on both a state and federal level. The U.S. Supreme Court remained silent when confronted with outrage, allowing their silence to continue until Wednesday, when the law was enacted and nothing could be done to stop it from going into effect. Late Wednesday, the SCOTUS revealed that their conservative majority had allowed the law to stand and avoid being blocked.
Although they decided not to block the law, the conservative judges admitted that there are “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law.” The Democratic judges communicated their belief that the law is too “far-reaching” and should be prevented. The result of the activities of the Supreme Court was the decision that the law would stand, although its constitutionality was questionable. The court will let the constitutionality be determined while the law is upheld. Within Texas’s state court, lawsuits have been filed against anti-abortion groups, such as Texas Right to Life. Pro-choice activists in Texas have already organized protests and demonstrations in the state to voice their disdain for the law.
For the abortion industry and its patients, the law poses an extreme threat. Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who works for Planned Parenthood in Houston, expressed his concern that some women will inquire where to receive an abortion out of state, although travelling out of Texas is likely not possible for many. In addition to the already difficult journey out of state, the closest abortion clinic on the other side of Texas’s state border is in Louisiana— a state facing its own challenges after being ravaged by Hurricane Ida in late August.
Texas’s new law is a major setback for supporters of female reproductive rights. If the federal court eventually determines that the law may remain in long-term place, then it is highly probable that other conservative states will restrict their abortion laws even further. With abortion limitations growing stricter and stricter, the nearly half-century-old court ruling of Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to an abortion during the first half of a pregnancy, is in danger.
Atkins, Chloe. “Texas' New Abortion Law Could Have Huge Consequences. Here's What Comes Next.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 2 Sept. 2021, www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/texas-abortion-law-explained-what-next-n1278312.
McCammon, Sarah. “What the Texas Abortion Ban Does - and What It Means for Other States.” NPR, NPR, 1 Sept. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/09/01/1033202132/texas-abortion-ban-what-happens-next.
Phillips, Amber. “Analysis | What to Know about the Texas Abortion Law.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 Sept. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/09/01/texas-abortion-law-faq/.
About the Author:
Karenna Marnik is a rising sophomore student. Over the past year, Karenna has developed an interest in journalism and has even contributed to her school’s newspaper. Karenna has a passion for sailing, as she has participated in the sport for seven years. She also enjoys a lifestyle filled with exercise and the outdoors, particularly hiking.