***TRIGGER WARNING for mentions of abortion, miscarriage, and rape***
I honestly had to take a week to gather my thoughts before I could write this. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just recently finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale and am now reading the follow up novel, The Testaments. Perhaps it’s because the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan, throwing women’s rights and all they’ve achieved either in the bin or back 100 years. Clearly, I would feel this furious anyway, because it’s cruel and vindictive and sexist down to its very core. But it feels particularly hard on me this month. And I’m not even the one paying the consequences.
If you don’t know, a week ago today Texas passed a law called Senate Bill 8 (commonly known as SB8) which effectively bans abortions after 6 weeks – as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected – with no exceptions for rape or incest. Any private citizen is allowed to sue anyone who aids and abets an abortion if it takes place after 6 weeks, with a cash reward of up to 10,000 US dollars, plus legal fees. Thankfully (though it feels a bit dirty to be giving thanks at a moment like this), the woman having the abortion cannot be sued. Although paying 10,000 dollars is definitely cheaper than raising a child until 18 years of age, so it’s still damning for women all over Texas.
What does this mean? It means that a bigot can sue an Uber driver for unknowingly dropping a woman off at her appointment. It means that less and less doctors will even perform legal abortions out of fears for being sued. It means that someone can sue your best friend, who you leaned on for emotional support and advice. It means that a father can rape his daughter, and collect 10,000 dollars when she tries to have the baby aborted. Now, in Texas, rape has a lesser financial charge than aborting a fetus after 6 weeks.
This is a vigilante law, used to hunt women and punish them for what used to be a human right.
To put this into context – most women do not know they are pregnant before six weeks. The law states that the clock starts ticking from the end of her last period, but most people don’t know they’re pregnant until they miss a period, which is give or take four weeks later. So that knocks four weeks off the list, and now they only have two weeks to discover they’re pregnant, decide they want an abortion, book an appointment, find the money to pay for it, and get the fetus aborted all within the two-week period. And that’s if your period is regular. Some people don’t have a period every month – how would they know?
The reason why this is so shocking that the law passed (apart from the obvious) is that this is a direct violation of Roe vs. Wade.
Roe vs. Wade was a ground-breaking lawsuit in 1973, ruled by the Supreme Court, that dictates that the Constitution of the United States protects the rights of women to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
These legendary lawsuits create precedent for the laws of the future, and they cannot contradict each other. What’s to stop states from creating new laws that go against all the laws before? It will create chaos – which this law has done already in many women’s lives. Basically, the Supreme Court just overturned its own ruling. This is why we panicked when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, and Donald Trump rushed in the Republican Amy Coney Barrett – a devout Catholic, who implied back in 2016 that specifics and state-sanctioned restrictions of the Roe vs. Wade case would change. This has been a long time coming.
What does this mean for women in America? How far will a Texan woman have to drive when all the states around her follow suit? Banning abortions doesn’t stop people from getting abortions – it stops people from getting safe abortions.
To be clear – there are no criminal consequences in SB8 for getting an illegal abortion. It is only illegal for qualified professionals to medically and safely abort a fetus after 6 weeks. That really just shows that the state government does not care about the health of unborn babies as they so claim, but instead they care about dismantling safe healthcare for women.
When I was younger, I went through so many books that the content of what I read went virtually unchecked. I will never forget reading a novel in which a young, afraid girl attempted to self-abort her baby with a coat hanger. That is something that is frequently done around the world, and will continue to be done, especially in Texas. Trying to damage your womb so much to self-abort a fetus could result in extreme blood loss and sepsis among other things – all life threatening. Self-induced abortion puts the lives of women at risk, and will most likely make them infertile. If the state cared about babies so much, why would they force women to risk infertility?
What about the women suffering miscarriages? Pro-life campaigners often use the late-term abortion methods such as D&E (dilation and evacuation) as a scaremongering tactic to recruit supporters. Visions of sucking out a baby with a vacuum have haunted many women trying to get an abortion in fake abortion clinics, but sometimes that is absolutely necessary – to save the woman’s life. Miscarriages are some of the hardest things women experience in their lives, and the later it is along the pregnancy, the heavier the mental toll – and the more physically dangerous. It is imperative that women who have suffered a miscarriage later than 12 weeks be evacuated (i.e. vacuumed) as any remaining tissue left in the womb will cause sepsis – and without being cleaned out, will cause certain death. A miscarriage is also technically called a spontaneous abortion – will women now be fiscally punished for miscarrying? Something completely out of their control?
The opinion on abortion in Texas seems to be equally divided. We know that Southern states have the tendency to be more religious, yet abortion is still almost a 50/50 topic – even among Catholics.
Donald Trump definitely benefitted from abortion services, yet stands for the side that actively punishes women for them.
George Bush, a Texan, dragged the entirety of the United States into a war to protect the freedom of Afghan citizens, but the State won’t do the same for their own people?
In Texas, the Governor wouldn’t enforce the public to wear masks because it would be against the rights of their citizens, and it’s their body, their choice – UNTIL IT COMES TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF WOMEN.
SB8 actively pushes women into poverty, or if they are below the poverty line, ensures that they stay there. Raising children is expensive, and time-consuming, and virtually impossible to do as a single mother working hard at a job to live an adequate life. There is not sufficient childcare for working professionals, or women below the poverty line – which is who this law will affect the most. Wealthy Texans have the time and money to travel to another state for their pregnancy services. Poor Texans do not have the money to do so, or the time off from their jobs to get a fundamental service.
People seeking abortions are usually doing so for a reason, either they don’t want children, it’s not the right time, they don’t have the money, or a safe space to raise a child. Some women cannot have babies, as it puts their physical health at risk. Texas would be forcing the mother to have a baby by sacrificing her own health, and maybe even her life.
By forcing these women into having children they don’t want, not only disadvantages the mother, but subjects the child to a life of hardship and poverty. Perhaps they end up in foster homes, of which there are not enough, not adequate funds to support these children, nor adequate education to help them succeed in life.
For a government who claims to care about children – they care more about a collection of cells than they do actual living, breathing human beings. It’s all well and good to care about children, but abandoning them once they’re born? And not by the mother – it’s abandonment by the government, using this new law. Why would you voluntarily subject a child to a life of hardship?
I’m sorry if this is hard to read, but it’s harder for the women who have to deal with this in real life. We must be outraged about these things. There is no relief for standing up for women’s rights. It is something we must do each and every day. We are carrying women’s rights of our generation and the generations to come like weights on our shoulders, and there is no place or time to put them down.