Overnight on Sept. 1, Texas passed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, effectively giving the middle finger to the precedent of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.
The law, which was passed in May and went into effect last Wednesday, says that any pregnancy in which doctors detect a heartbeat cannot be aborted. That effectively means any woman that is six weeks pregnant cannot have an abortion in the state of Texas, which is when fetal cardiac activity is detected.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), makes no exceptions for rape, incest or sexual abuse.
The saving grace for many women across this country in medical need of an abortion, Roe v. Wade, is being challenged like never before.
“It is definitely in jeopardy,” Amy Howe, cofounder of SCOTUSblog, said on air at KCUR. “The real question is whether they overrule Roe v. Wade outright or take some sort of intermediate steps that make it much easier for states to pass laws that restrict abortion and make it significantly harder for women without coming outright and saying Roe v. Wade is overruled.”
This is not an argument about what is in the best interest of the unborn, because this new law will inevitably produce an influx of children forced into foster care. Republicans have made that clear.
If this was the case, Republicans would vote to gear tax dollars towards education, housing and food-based social need programs instead of feeding mega-corporations and the rich. That is not pro-life, it is pro-birth.
If a fetus is a person at six weeks pregnant, is that when child support starts? Is that also when the government cannot deport an immigrant mother because she is carrying a U.S. citizen? If Texas is choosing to enact this medieval legislation, they should go all in.
This new law is not only harmful, but ill-informed.
“It is extremely possible and very common for people to get to the six-week mark and not know they are pregnant,” Jennifer Villavicencio, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told the New York Times. “The cardiac activity detected on ultrasound is not a true heartbeat. It results from electrical activity, but the valves of the heart have not yet formed.”
Many women have irregular cycles or may not even know the exact start date of their last period.
A fetal heartbeat is incredibly early in a pregnancy, and many women do not know they are pregnant at this point. By the time a pregnant woman misses her period, she is already four weeks pregnant.
Under the Texas law a woman would have roughly two weeks to recognize her condition, confirm the pregnancy with a test, and make a decisive call about how to manage the pregnancy or follow through with an abortion.
Not only is this law a clear violation of a woman’s bodily autonomy, it also places a sadistic bounty on the head of anyone who attempts to aid in an abortion.
SB8 deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who performs an abortion or “aids” a procedure. Plaintiffs can have no connection to the patient or the clinic and still be able to sue and recover legal fees, in addition to $10,000 if they win.
This novel aspect of SB8 bars state officials from enforcing it. Designed with the intention to make it difficult to challenge in court, it aims to shut down opposition from the Supreme Court. Typically, a lawsuit aiming to block such a law as unconstitutional explicitly states the officials as the defendants. As a result, the question for the SCOTUS is not whether the law is constitutional, but whether it can be challenged in court.
With the SCOTUS having a restraint majority and turning a blind eye to the recent law in Texas, it gives the green light for many conservative states to enact a similar bill.
So, what does this mean for Missouri?
Missouri currently bans abortions after 22 weeks. However, Missouri, along with 11 other states, is known as a “trigger” state. A “trigger” provision gives a cascading scale for the time frame in which a woman can get an abortion. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Missouri would automatically see an eight-week abortion law come into effect. Until restraint, Missouri courts could inevitably enact a total abortion ban once given the opportunity.
Women across this nation have valid reason to be terrified that, like the women in Texas, the morally bankrupt extremists of the Republican party will strip them of their rights.
“Yes, several states have already announced plans to introduce legislation like SB8 in the coming weeks,” Yvette Lindgren, a UMKC bioethics law professor, said. “The only thing I think that may give legislators pause is the public outcry over this law. There is something particularly troubling about the private enforcement aspect of it that offends people broadly across the political spectrum.”
Lindgren, who specializes in reproductive rights, also expressed concern over the future implications of this law.
“Even more concerning is that if the procedural method is permitted to stand, states could use it broadly to do an end-run around constitutional rights in a whole host of ways beyond abortion that will effectively evade court challenge,” Lindgren said.
Many conservatives fail to recognize the apparent hypocrisy in their witch hunt views on controlling a woman’s uterus. If your heart supposedly breaks for embryos but you shrug at COVID-19, a virus that has killed 648,000 sentient Americans, you are not pro-life.
This is not a crinkled page ripped out of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This is America.