In May 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott first passed the Texas Heartbeat Act, which recently came into effect on September 1st, 2021. The Texas Heartbeat Act is the first law that bans almost all abortions in Texas after 6 weeks of pregnancy. This unreasonable time frame represents a woman’s period being just 2 weeks late. Aside from the blatant fact that most women have no idea they are pregnant at this point, it is undoubtable that the intention behind instituting this law is to take power away from women to make choices about their own bodies. It is unconstitutional and morally unethical.
The Texas abortion law punishes abortion providers rather than patients, putting their medical license and financial standing at risk – which is a manipulative way to eradicate abortion procedures from the state at large. Since the Texas government and its officials are likely to be constrained by the U.S Constitution, this act strategically relies on private citizens for law enforcement rather than the state. Members of the public can file a civil lawsuit to enforce the law against anyone who performs, facilitates, aids or abets an illegal abortion. The law allows for a minimum amount of $10,000 to be sued in “statutory damages” for each abortion performed by a provider, or anybody who aided or abetted in the process. If a lawsuit has many defendants in the case, it is possible that the money damages could run well higher than the base of $10,000. Not only will this incentivize bounty hunters, but it insulates the state from taking any responsibility for the rules and regulations they implement.
Furthermore, it is important to note that this law will impact women of colour and marginalized communities to the greatest extent. Perpetuating deeper racial stratification, people of colour are much more vulnerable in a criminal legal system where they are already disproportionately targeted. Similarly, this amplifies the socio-economic divide between white people and people of colour, as POC’s are statistically less likely to have the financial flexibility to access out-of-state abortion resources if needed. This will not only force women into premature parenthood they may not be prepared for, but will also increase maternal mortality rates in the state. Yet another tool used to embed systemic racism into our society, the victimization of low-income black women continues.
In response to this unconstitutional behaviour, the conservative-heavy Supreme Court made the decision not to interfere with the passing of this strict law. As expected, this has fueled mass protests around the country, all of which bring attention to the constitutional right of a woman to have an abortion – outlined in the novel court case of Roe v. Wade. Posing a generational threat to all women, young advocates for abortion legalization have taken to social media in the hopes of globalizing their activism efforts. Unfortunately, these forms of protest and resistance have yet to be met with any concrete response.
This full-scale assault on a woman’s right to an abortion is telling of the United States’ lack of respect for a woman’s personhood and ability to make her own bodily decisions.