Three months ago, I wrote about an issue that felt relevant and personal: the voting law that was heading to the Texas House of Representatives in May. To my dismay, that bill (Senate Bill 1) has passed, but today my focus is on another devastating bill that passed and went into effect in Texas on September 1, 2021: Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), or the Texas Heartbeat Act.
What does this law mean? I bet you have seen it circulating around your social media feed in colorful infographics, but what does the law actually do? There are two main parts of the bill that you should understand. Most importantly, the law prohibits an abortion after the detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat, which is six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. This is before many women even know they are pregnant. The bill also makes no exceptions to pregnancies induced by rape, sexual abuse, incest or genetic disorders.
The second important fact to understand regarding Senate Bill 8 is how can this exist alongside Roe v. Wade? Roe v. Wade was ruled by the Supreme Court in 1973 and gave people the right to a safe and legal abortion across the United States. Many people are asking how Senate Bill 8 can be considered constitutional in light of Roe v. Wade. Here’s the answer: SB 8 is not enforced by the state, thus not interfering with Roe v. Wade. Unique to any other state’s abortion policy, Texas is enforcing this bill through private lawsuits by the citizens. Citizens are now able to sue abortion providers and those aiding the individuals seeking an abortion, such as an Uber driver.
Even though this bill is only effective in Texas, women everywhere are concerned for the fates of their bodies and their choices. What SB 8 has accomplished is a coexistence with Roe v. Wade, so there is a resonating fear that other states will adopt a similar bill.
When I heard that the bill had successfully been passed on the morning of September 1, I was devastated. I work for a nonprofit reproductive healthcare clinic in Hopkins, Minnesota called myHealth for Teens and Young Adults. Even though I am only the receptionist, I see clients’ experiences with our nurses every day. Our clinic does not provide fetal termination services, but our nurses perform pregnancy tests and discuss options with clients who come in. I’ve seen women as young as 16 leave the clinic in tears. I’ve seen women the exact same age as me leave with the stress of a decision.
Senate Bill 8 may not affect me personally. However, SB 8 does personally affect women who are my age. It breaks my heart to think of the women facing the decision of termination. However, what breaks my heart even more is that a bill like SB 8 exists to make that decision even harder.
Just a few months ago, Mississippi attempted to pass a law banning abortion past 15 weeks. According to NPR, the bill was blocked by the Supreme Court because of its conflict with Roe v. Wade. The success of Senate Bill 8 directly speaks to the future of a woman’s right to choose. Roe v. Wade may be compromised, and this is not a fight for just now: this is a fight in our future.
I spoke with members of Her Campus at SLU to hear their opinions on the issue and the bill. This is what they said:
Meredith Labuda, Sophomore: “Something that is forgotten a lot in the abortion debate is the health of the woman who is carrying the baby. Pregnancy lasts for nine long months and giving birth changes the body in irreversible ways. There are many women who have health issues that make it incredibly dangerous to carry a baby. We cannot forget about the women in Texas who are in these situations. In these women’s cases, abortion is choosing life.”
Kateryna Gehlhaar, Senior: “As someone going into health care, my biggest concern now is the number of women that will be performing unsafe backstreet abortions, which statistically lead to death of the mother. For those concerned about the life of a fetus, which I’m not here to argue about, we are putting thousands of mothers’ lives at risk.”
Amreen Sauji, Sophomore: “I honestly find it crazy that people on either side (pro-choice or pro-life) find this acceptable. This law is extremely overarching, especially with the access they give to people to sue those who aid in someone getting an abortion. I saw this saying on a protester’s sign: ‘If I wanted a politician in my uterus, I’d have sex with one.’”
Brenna Russell, Junior: “The bill is not even based in real science, and it’s just another power grab for political and religious influences. It’s absolutely going to do more harm than good.”
Maria Cieslarczyk, Senior: “This bill doesn’t prevent abortions from happening, but rather it directly harms those who are financially unable to seek safe resources elsewhere. It widens the socioeconomic divide and disproportionately harms minorities. It does nothing but endanger the lives of women and the well-being of their communities, passing harsh and unjust judgement with no compassion for the fact that women are human beings and deserve to be treated as such rather than political playgrounds.”
Anonymous Member of Her Campus SLU: “Women shouldn’t feel like they are closed in a box and that society makes the decisions for them. Women should have a voice, and they should be able to make decisions for themselves. It’s our body, so it’s our choice. Sometimes making the most baseless decision is the right choice.”
It can be easy to feel defeated and helpless, especially for those who don’t personally live in Texas and can only sit state lines away and wait for things to change. Here are resources that you can donate to if you are looking for a way to put your money where your heart is.
I encourage you to check in with the people in your lives whom this bill impacts. The implications of this bill go far beyond the border of Texas. Missouri Republicans are already planning a restrictive abortion bill in the likeness of Senate Bill 8, according to St. Louis Public Radio, and this is just the beginning. This bill speaks to the history of women battling for the right to their bodies and to a future of fighting to keep that choice legally protected. Plain and simple, this is a bill that matters.