What’s going on with the new abortion laws in Texas?
Anti-abortion laws in Texas that went into effect on Sept. 1 of this year are known as “the nation’s most restrictive” laws.
The legislation enforces a “heartbeat law,” preventing Texans from going through with an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. It also allows citizens to sue abortion providers and people accused of “aiding and abetting abortion”, such as family members, friends, and partners who drove patients to their provider, took care of them following the procedure, or helped them to make the appointment.
On Oct. 7, news broke of a temporary block of Texas’ abortion ban by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman. This was widely considered a short-term win by pro-choice groups nationwide.
Pitman’s order did not directly speak on the constitutionality of Texas’ legislation and was certainly not a permanent solution. In fact, the results of this order only stuck for about 48 hours.
The fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Texas’ abortion legislation on Oct. 9.
How are people reacting to this inhibitory legislation?
Unsurprisingly, news of these restrictive laws sparked an outcry from pro-choice advocates across the nation. Here in Boston, an event called the Rally for Abortion Justice was held at Franklin Park Playstead on Oct 2. Over 2,000 people were in attendance, including Representative Ayanna Pressley and Attorney General Maura Healy.
But I thought these abortion laws exist in Texas…why do Massachusetts residents care?
Although Massachusetts itself allows abortion up until the 24th week of pregnancy, some pro-choice advocates worry that the limiting laws in other states will have negative impacts on citizens here.
“There is this extension, that ripple effect of fear and intimidation,” says Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, “and it really does impact people here.” A total of 18,593 legal abortions were reported to the Massachusetts Department of Health in 2019.
What is the abortion law in Massachusetts?
In recent years, the state has become more progessive in terms of abortion legislation. At the end of 2020, a pair of bills called the “Roe Act” was passed by state legislators.
This act permits fetuses to be aborted legally after 24 weeks post-implantation in certain situations — if the fetus has been determined to have disabilities, or if the procedure will protect the parent’s physical or mental health. In terms of abortion legislation, this act is considered relatively broad, and allows for most abortions to be completed legally.
So, what will happen to Texans who want or need an abortion?
For now, neighboring states are absorbing patients who would otherwise receive abortion services in the Lone Star State. Attorneys for Planned Parenthood said in court that healthcare workers in Oklahoma, for example, “are working overtime to care for Texas patients denied abortions.”
The Justice Department has the power to bring the appeals court’s decision back to the Supreme Court. However, given the conservative majority and recent decision not to block Texas’ existing, restrictive abortion law, many analysts believe this will not change much.
In the meantime, Texans must choose to exit their state borders in order to obtain a legal abortion.
However, many patients are unable to make these trips for a variety of reasons. According to Planned Parenthood, an abortion itself can cost up to $1,500. When transportation and accommodation expenses are factored in, it’s understandable why a person may be unable to take advantage of this pricey option.
Planned Parenthood confirms that they will continue to “do their best to help people to afford abortion.” They encourage prospective patients to call their nearest health center if they are wondering about the cost or legality of the procedure in their area.