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