Yesterday, Texas banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — with no exceptions for rape or incest. This is the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. We wanted to break down exactly what’s going on and how to help…
What’s happening in Texas?
The Texas abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8, went into effect on Wednesday, September 1st. The law bans most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo — usually around six weeks of gestation. Six weeks is very early in pregnancy, and many people don’t even know they’re pregnant at that stage. (I didn’t know I was pregnant with Toby at six weeks!)
So, most people won’t be able to obtain abortions?
This new law is a near-complete ban on abortion in Texas. Eighty-five to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy. “By the time a pregnant woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant, as doctors usually define it,” reports the New York Times. “Under the Texas law, then, a woman would have about two weeks to recognize her condition, confirm the pregnancy with a test, make a decision about how to manage the pregnancy and obtain an abortion.”
What about rape or incest?
The Texas law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
How about Roe v. Wade? Doesn’t that make the law unconstitutional?
Roe v. Wade was the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus (usually around 24 weeks).
But, the new Texas law was deliberately written in a way that makes it tough to challenge. Here’s why: If you want to try to block a law for being unconstitutional, you would typically bring a lawsuit that names state officials as your defendants. However! The Texas law bars state officials from enforcing it. Instead, the law deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion.
So, regular people can sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion?
Exactly. People can’t sue the patient, but they can sue doctors, nurses, clinic desk staff, reproductive rights counselors, friends or family who help pay for the procedure, the list goes on. “Even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic” could be sued, says the New York Times. Plaintiffs don’t need to live in Texas or have any connection to the abortion at all. If they win, they’re entitled to $10,000 and attorney fees.
What did the Supreme Court say about this law?
On a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court refused on Wednesday night to block the Texas law. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law had not properly addressed “complex and novel” procedural questions. On a positive note, the Court emphasized that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and that people can still challenge it in court. But, in the meantime, the law stays in effect.
What are some of the reasons someone may want or need an abortion?
If they’re a victim of rape or incest. If the unborn fetus or the pregnant person has health problems. If the birth would cause psychological trauma. If they can not afford a child. If having a child dramatically interferes with the person’s education, work or ability to care for dependents. If birth control fails, and they don’t want a child. Because it’s each person’s choice and their body.
Can’t people just travel outside Texas to get abortions?
Yes, theoretically, and they can find verified providers here or here. But, for many, many people, traveling out of state can be difficult or impossible. Low-income folks, undocumented immigrants, teenagers, parents who don’t have childcare, people with strict work schedules, and many others may not have the time, money, transportation or ability to travel to get the procedure.
“I’m thinking about the Black, brown, low-income, queer, and young folks in Texas,” tweeted Representative Cori Bush. “The folks this abortion health care ban will disproportionately harm. Wealthy white folks will have the means to access abortion care. Our communities won’t.”
Now that Texas has banned almost all abortions, how are they supporting women during pregnancy, birth and afterward?
They aren’t. “Texas does not care about women or their well-being,” says Oxfam America senior researcher Kaitlyn Henderson. “As one of the worst states in the country for working women, Texas does not provide any kind of paid [parental] leave, pays below poverty wages, and does not accommodate pregnant nor breastfeeding workers. So, in Texas, lawmakers want to limit a woman’s right to choose, but will not make workplaces safe once she conceives or even after she’s given birth.” Texas also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world.
If I’m anti-abortion, should I be happy about this law?
No, it still makes no sense. Many people who oppose abortion assume that the best way to stop abortion is to make it illegal. But the truth is, making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion. It just makes it less safe. Evidence has shown, time and time again, that women will continue getting abortions in places where it’s illegal — they just have to do it under dangerous, desperate conditions. Thousands of women die of complications from unsafe abortions every year, and many others suffer major long-term health problems, including infection and hemorrhaging. “This hurts women, their families and their communities, but it does little to reduce abortion,” says the Center for American Progress. (I wrote about this here, as well.)
How can we help? Where can we donate?
Good question! Here are a few places to support:
* Donate to a Texas Abortion Fund. For years, these organizations have been helping provide emotional, financial, legal, transportation and lodging assistance to anyone who is seeking an abortion. A list of funds are Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, Fund Texas Choice, Buckle Bunnies Fund, Support Your Sistah, West Fund, the Bridge Collective and Clinic Access Support Network. If you’re a minor, Jane’s Due Process provides free legal help. Or you can donate to ActBlue and have your donation split across 10 different funds.
* Support Texas-based organizers. Founded and directed by Black womxn, The Afiya Center organizes and advocates for for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care from a lens of racial justice.
Let’s talk: How are you feeling about this new law? Do you have suggestions of other ways to help? Please share below, and thank you so much. xo
(Photo by Montinique Monroe for The New York Times.)