On Wednesday September 1, legislators in Texas passed Senate Bill 8, banning abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, a point at which many women may not even be aware they are pregnant. Additionally, provisions of the bill lay out punishable offenses doctors, clinic staff, and even Uber drivers could potentially face for being involved with the procedure. Private citizens can report and sue those involved with abortion procedures and if they are found guilty, these defendants would have to pay a fee of $10,000. The law encourages clinics to turn away women seeking abortions and supports individuals coming forward to report patients or doctors involved. One of the most grotesque provisions of this bill is it’s refusal to make exceptions in cases of incest or rape. The American Civil Liberties Union requested a block by the Supreme Court on which they refused to act. This denial is a clear display of where the court stands on abotion rights and access in this country.
The Texas law is an unprecedented approach to abortion regulation; rather than put government officials in charge of enforcing the ban, this law puts the responsibility on citizens. The consequence of this provision is that it is more difficult to prove unconstitutionality in the Supreme Court. Essentially, if there is no one individual responsible for enforcing the law, there is nobody to take to court for violating the constitution. Essentially, anyone involved with an abortion in anyway is subject to citizen vigilantes seeking out legal ramifications. This puts clinics at a great legal disadvantage and pushes them to not provide abortions so as to avoid being sued. The meticulous design of this law made sure that there was no government body that could be sued before its passing.
The Supreme Court waited until after the law went into effect to release their rulings and respective statements. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that they were “not in a position to stop” the passage of this law and will not rule on its constitutionality, according to Adam Liptak of the New York Times.
This law strips women of control over their own bodies. The New York Times reported that 80-90% of abortions in Texas occur after the first six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. Therefore this bill is a near total ban on abortion for women in Texas. Texas is just one of many states set on passing extremely restrictive abortion laws.
The effects of the law are already being seen as the clinics do not want to risk legal turmoil. The New York Times reports that the roughly 24 clinics in Texas are abiding by the law and ceasing all abortion procedures after six weeks of pregnancy, or when a heartbeat is detected.
The devious but successful nature of this law makes it likely to be mimicked in other Republican-led states, fixed on fulfilling their pro-life agendas. This law is terrifying and stands in direct opposition to Roe v. Wade and rights that women have been fighting for for decades. It is absurd and frightening that legislation seems to be traveling back in time 48 years to appease people who think it is their business what an entire nation of women does with their bodies.
Furthermore, these decisions should not be made my male lawmakers who have never and will never face the decision of whether or not to get an abortion themselves. This decision lies between a woman and her doctor and should not be the business of a legislative body.
Going to a Catholic university may limit some conversations about abortion rights but in instances of drastic injustice, being silent is unacceptable. Women’s rights are being jeopardized and violated and we have a responsibility to speak up.