The Texas Abortion Ban: A Sinister Attack on Human Rights

The ban went into effect on Sept. 1. The new law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and others who help someone terminate their pregnancy, even including drivers who bring women to the abortion clinic. Cartoon by Lianna Maley.

The right for women to get abortions, an established legal norm in America since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was passed, has been revoked for those in Texas who wish to get an abortion. 

Senate Bill 8, rendered effective Sept. 1 for Texas citizens, is one of the most restrictive laws concerning women’s reproductive rights in recent history, restricting abortions to within six weeks of conception; it was passed in tandem with Senate Bill 4, a law restricting access to morning after pills.

This ban directly infringes upon constitutional ideals of liberty, putting religion above law.

Similar to the heartbeat law passed in nearby Georgia, the moment the fetus has a detectable heartbeat (generally after six weeks) the mother and attending physician are prohibited from terminating the pregnancy. It is common for women to not be aware of a pregnancy within that six week window. In fact, 92% of women receive abortion within 13 weeks according to the CDC. It’s clear that the new law would put the majority of people seeking an abortion at risk of being denied one because they’d be outside of the exceedingly narrow legal time frame. 

At six weeks pregnant, a person’s period would only be two weeks late, and, as many can attest, lateness could also just be caused by anything from stress to high physical activity, meaning many wouldn’t have reason to believe they were pregnant until it was too late to qualify for a legal abortion in states with the heartbeat law. 

The evangelical right wing ideology that had a hand in this law’s creation argues that the wellbeing of the child is sacrosanct, while disregarding the wellbeing of the mother. 

Further, there have been no concessions made to address situations of incest or rape that result in pregancy.

This all operates on the assumption that getting an abortion is easy in the first place — which it isn’t. It’s financially, emotionally and (eventually) physically strenuous. The time consuming aspect alone can prevent many from getting an abortion, given that 75% of women seeking abortions are low income so taking time off work can be especially difficult.

Three quarters of people seeking abortions say they can’t meet their own basic needs with 60% of those who are denied abortions becoming unemployed soon after. A study from the American Public Health Association found, when people are turned away from abortions, they are three times more likely to become unemployed within six months. Black women get abortions at rates four times higher than White women, strengthening the notion that the bill will disproportionately impact people of color, perpetuate poverty and reduce career opportunities in communities throughout the state. 

It seems in their desire to appear upright, Texas lawmakers forgot about the downtown communities of San Antonio or the farmers of Cooper, assuming they ever think of them.

A member of a women’s rights non-profit in Texas, who preferred to remain anonymous says being denied an abortion is “a consignment to poverty.”

She explained that the assumed image of women who need abortions are out of control young women, instead of wives or mothers or both. This image persists because it’s easier to sell the idea of licentious youths to conservative voters than pragmatic women planning their lives carefully. But ultimately the image shouldn’t matter. Control over one’s body isn’t a conditional right.

“The irony here is so thick that you could cut it with a knife,” she says. She also says, “it takes a man and a woman to have a child. They are both responsible.” Speaking to her, the hurt was clear. In her eyes it’s a betrayal.

There was a lull in the federal courts until Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice announced they are bringing suit to the government of Texas. “The law violates individuals’ rights to have an abortion procedure prior to viability,” they wrote in a press release. This tidbit comes after the declaration that Texas SB 8 violates the supremacy clause and the 14th amendment of the United States constitution.

This is a strong statement and representative of the kind of administrative responsibility to marginalized communities that Joe Biden campaigned on. The only problem is the law made it through the Texas chambers in May. Merrick Garland’s statement was released on Sept. 9. They waited four months to get the wheels turning on stopping this bill from being enacted. 

The reason this delayed response is so damning is that the case to stop this law coming to pass is legally fraught. This heartbeat bill empowers private citizens (not the government) to bring suit against abortion providers, patients and doctors.

In broad strokes it’s difficult to challenge because the federal government has limited legal standing in the courts with this issue and the claimants and those causing harm are the same people: Texas citizens.

What’s truly worrying about this situation is its domino effect. If one state can do it, why can’t the rest? If the same states that managed to get through voter suppression, no, voter safety laws, can see this happening, why wouldn’t they rework abortion bills knocked back federally in recent years, like in Gerogia, or Arkansas or Tennesee?

Americans must make it known that this isn’t a law we will tolerate.

We, at the SUNY New Paltz Oracle, encourage everyone to find a way to advocate for abortion access in Texas: sign the American Civil Liberties Union’s petition, donate to pro-choice organizations, even stop by the Green Bar in New Paltz and buy a pink drink (100% of proceeds benefit pro-choice organizations in Texas). Living in the Northeast (New York and New Paltz, specifically) it is easy to become complacent about topics that feel too far away to impact us immediately. But the existence of an abortion ban anywhere in the United States has the potential to infringe on human rights throughout the nation at any time. We stand with the pro-choice organizations of Texas and the people first impacted by the ban.