Until September 2021, for nearly 50 years, Texas permitted abortions up to 20 weeks by recognizing the right to abortion, enshrined in the supreme court’s landmark Roe v Wade judgement. Only if the unborn baby has a severe abnormality or the mother has a life-threatening condition can a person who has been pregnant for more than 20 weeks legally have their baby aborted.
Now a new law in Texas bans abortion at 6 weeks- when a fetal “heartbeat” can be detected while making no exceptions for rape cases and incest which result in pregnancies.
This Texas heartbeat act also makes access to abortion care exceptionally hard, if not impossible. “Because most people do not realize they are pregnant at that point, it functions as a de facto ban on all abortion,” said Jill Adams, JD, the executive director of the reproductive justice organization If/When/How.
What do the Democrats have to say about this?
The Biden administration and Vice-President Kamala Harris have extended their full support for abortion to be legal across the US. Kamala Harris lays a lot of emphasis on the importance of women having reproductive rights and being able to make choices about “their own bodies”. She says it’s “non-negotiable” and their support is “unequivocal”.
When the state legislature was trying to pass this law, many expected it to be put on hold. Instead, on a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court refused to do so on procedural grounds. This vote does not determine whether the law is legitimate or not; rather, it determines whether it can be put into effect before the entire case goes to court.
The legislation also classifies abortion after six weeks as a civil violation rather than a criminal offence, allowing people to bring a suit against anyone who may have assisted them in getting an abortion, from the cab driver to the sister who drove the lady to the facility to the receptionists or nurses who worked there. Along with legal fee coverage, successful plaintiffs will be rewarded the $10,000 fine levied as a punishment against the lawsuit's target. Consequently, the threat of a lawsuit will push some abortion providers to shut down. This law unleashes bounty hunters by authorizing abusive husbands, rapists, strangers, and religious extremists to attack women’s healthcare decisions.
The US had the Fugitive Slave Law where bounty hunters were rewarded to track down the escaped slaves to return them to slavery. For generations, it’s been said, that because men are not state actors, they are free to abuse and rape their wives. None of these activities served democracy, equality, freedom, or human rights effectively. Nonetheless, the Texas legislature wishes to go back in time and not progress which the Supreme Court allows.
Doesn’t this sound scarily similar to a plot from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the popular TV series that portrays a dystopian fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state? Except, this time it isn’t fiction. It’s not a dystopian future, it’s reality.
How entrepreneurs are extending support
Logan D. Green, the co-founder, and CEO of Lyft, the second-largest ridesharing company in the United States after Uber, tweeted, “TX SB8 threatens to punish drivers for getting people where they need to go, especially women exercising their right to choose. Lyft has created a Driver Legal Defense Fund to cover 100% of the legal fees for drivers sued under SB8 while driving on our platform.”
Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, replied to Logan’s tweet by adding, “Uber would be taking care of the same for Uber drivers, ensuring that transportation is never a barrier to access to healthcare.”
Proponents of Texas’ new near-total ban on abortions call it the “heartbeat bill.” This is based on model legislation from Faith2Action Ministries, a Christian anti-abortion organization that defines a fetal heartbeat as a marker of “an unborn human individual.” The name references the point in time at around six weeks’ gestation when an ultrasound can detect the embryo’s cardiac activity for the first time, which under the new legislation triggers the abortion ban.
The mention of a heartbeat at that stage of pregnancy, however, is medically incorrect, according to specialists, since an embryo does not have a functioning heart at six weeks gestation.“They’re using what is actually a very imprecise term to the kind of regulate and restrict health care and the practice of medicine. It’s just not medically accurate to think that the way that we think of the development of the heart, it’s just kind of picking an arbitrary time point, which they’re defining as six weeks,” Dr Nisha Verma, a physician who provides abortion services and a fellow at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said.
Can it have unearthly effects?
An unforeseen side effect of the ban would be on the space industry. The state is a major hub for aerospace and the new bill may get the better of it. From NASA's Johnson Space Center to SpaceX, Blue Origin, and many more, roughly 144,000 people are employed in Texas in aerospace, the state reported in 2020.
If people leave the state or decline positions in aerospace in such a major space hub, because of feeling threatened and unsafe, it could significantly hurt the space industry's continuing struggle to employ and retain women.
By affecting the Texas workforce, this disputable law could affect the space industry's attempts to promote inclusion and diversity among historically marginalized groups, including women and non-binary gender minorities.
Does the law only affect people who can get pregnant?
Johnson Space Center employee Poppy Northcutt also emphasized that the new law does not only affect women or only people who can become pregnant. In addition to those directly affected by the law (people who can become pregnant, healthcare providers, and more), other Texas residents would still be affected by their colleagues, family, and friends who are struggling with the effects of this law.
There are organizations like Plan C that provide information on how pregnant women can order abortion pills online. It guides you through avoiding any legal trouble. The organization’s website is gaining a lot of traction since the law took effect.
“The surge and interest in our website and visits to our abortion pill finder service that we offer is an indication that people really are looking to understand all of their options," the organization’s co-founder, Elisa Wells said. "So I think there's quite a bit of interest in this."
Aid Access is one of the most popular providers, as it is the only physician-run service in the United States that delivers pills to patients who want self-managed abortions. Aid Access will take any donation or cover the entire cost for those who cannot afford it.
Women and pregnant people will continue to discover ways to terminate pregnancies, just as they have in the past. Texas’ new law is creative in its cruelty, which deprives women of much needed reproductive health care and turning ordinary people into criminals against their neighbours, Texas’ law has wiped out an entire set of healthcare services and options.