Bans Off Our Bodies protest
Bans Off Our Bodies protesters in Texas (ACLU of Texas)

Ten days ago, a five-mem­ber right wing major­i­ty on the Unit­ed States Supreme Court allowed Texas Sen­ate Bill 8 to go into effect, in what felt like anoth­er death knell for democ­ra­cy and the civ­il rights of women and peo­ple with uteruses.

Billed by Repub­li­cans as the “Texas Heart­beat Act,” Sen­ate Bill 8 bans all abor­tions before six weeks of preg­nan­cy and puts antiabor­tion cam­paign­ers — or any­one inter­est­ed in mak­ing ten thou­sand bucks — in charge of enforce­ment, by estab­lish­ing a sys­tem where­by any­one may sue any­one who per­forms or facil­i­tates an abor­tion for a min­i­mum of $10,000 in statu­to­ry damages.

As med­ical pro­fes­sion­als have explained, SB 8’s nick­name (“Texas Heart­beat Act”) is a mis­nomer. At six weeks, a fetus is not ful­ly formed, so while there may be some lev­els of car­diac activ­i­ty, there is no heart­beat.

The name, like the law itself, is meant to intim­i­date peo­ple and put an excla­ma­tion point on the forced preg­nan­cy, forced birth agen­da that right wing Repub­li­cans across the coun­try have been push­ing for over fifty years.

Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Preg­nan­cy, the major­i­ty of women will find out that they are preg­nant between weeks four and sev­en of their preg­nan­cies. With care clin­ics in the Lone Star State unable to offer abor­tion, women in Texas who find out they are preg­nant after six weeks will be a dif­fi­cult predica­ment. Many will no doubt be advised to go out of state for care.

In fact, clin­ics in near­by states like Okla­homa, and New Mex­i­co are already prepar­ing to deal with an onslaught of Texas-based patients in the future.

Apart from the fact that this has the poten­tial to over­whelm already thin­ly spread resources in sur­round­ing states, it is not a prac­ti­cal means of access­ing repro­duc­tive care. Inter­state trav­el is sim­ply not fea­si­ble for many women, par­tic­u­lar­ly women of col­or and eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged women.

Not all women in Texas have access to the trans­porta­tion or funds need­ed to trav­el hun­dreds if not thou­sands of miles for a med­ical pro­ce­dure they should have access to in their home state. Activists for wom­en’s rights and repro­duc­tive health­care providers have already spo­ken out about how Sen­ate Bill 8 will dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impact low income women of col­or, espe­cial­ly Black women.

A study from the Guttmach­er Insti­tute revealed that 49% of all women in the U.S. who received an abor­tion in 2014 were liv­ing below the fed­er­al pover­ty line.

Fur­ther­more, data from Texas Health and Human Ser­vices shows that Black women made up 29% of all Texas-res­i­dent abor­tions in 2020.

Fur­ther­more, 36% of Texas-res­i­dent abor­tions in 2020 were Lat­inx women.

Stud­ies have indi­cat­ed that high­er rates of unin­tend­ed preg­nan­cies occur among peo­ple of col­or due to deep-root­ed struc­tur­al issues that lim­it access to con­tra­cep­tives and oth­er forms of pre­ven­ta­tive care.

There is a grow­ing lev­el of appre­hen­sion that this new law bill will force vul­ner­a­ble young girls in Texas out of girl­hood and into moth­er­hood before they are tru­ly ready. To this, back­ers of restric­tive abor­tion leg­is­la­tion proud­ly tout adop­tion as an option. How­ev­er, as a fel­low adoptee, I know it is not that simple.

For some, car­ry­ing a preg­nan­cy to term and then giv­ing the baby up for adop­tion is a far more trau­mat­ic deci­sion than elect­ing to have an abor­tion ear­li­er on in the preg­nan­cy. For oth­ers, abor­tion is a med­ical­ly safer option than adoption.

Data from the CDC shows that pri­or to the ver­dict in Roe v. Wade in 1973 (which legal­ized abor­tion nation­wide), only 9% of nev­er-mar­ried women chose adop­tion as an option for an unwant­ed preg­nan­cy. After the 1980s, this fig­ure decreased to about 2% and was last report­ed below 1% in 2002.

Soci­ol­o­gists note that women are not nec­es­sar­i­ly choos­ing between abor­tion and adop­tion but abor­tion and par­ent­ing, which in cas­es means choos­ing between one’s goals and ambi­tions and rais­ing a child one nev­er want­ed to have.

As an adoptee, I know very clear­ly what it means to have grown up in a home where I had a par­ent who was ful­ly com­mit­ted to being a par­ent and who had the resources to sup­port a child. The detri­men­tal effects of being born and raised into a home where one is made to feel like a bur­den are obvi­ous to most.

Restric­tive abor­tion bans like this do not just strip one per­son, one par­ent, or one gen­er­a­tion of their repro­duc­tive rights, but also affect gen­er­a­tions to come.

Chil­dren born to moth­ers denied abor­tions are more like­ly to live in house­holds with­out ade­quate access to basic care. Like­wise, moth­ers of said chil­dren are less like­ly to form strong mater­nal bonds with their kids and are more sus­cep­ti­ble to feel­ings of resent­ment, and issues like these are often cyclical

And we all know — or should know — that these same (most­ly male) Repub­li­cans who are forc­ing women and peo­ple with uterus­es to car­ry preg­nan­cies to term are nev­er there when it is time to feed, clothe and pro­vide for the chil­dren who have been brought into the world as a result of those pregnancies.

Remem­ber, every Repub­li­can in Con­gress vot­ed against the Child Care Tax Credit.

SB 8 is not a heart­beat bill. It’s a heart­less bill. It’s a thought­less bill. It’s a repro­duc­tive rights deny­ing, free­dom-steal­ing bill. And it must be overturned.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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