Bodily autonomy is a natural and inalienable right–or so most people thought. Texas’ new abortion laws, which commenced Sept. 1, are the most restrictive in the nation with regards to access to abortion services.
Some features of the bills include a ban on abortions once cardiac activity is detected, an absence of exceptions for rape and incest situations, and making Texas citizens the “enforcers.” These extreme regulations essentially make it impossible for women to receive abortions in the state, contradicting the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade. This Supreme Court decision stated that women have a fundamental right to choose what they want to do with their bodies in regards to pregnancy. Irrational requirements regarding reproductive health rights are extremely harmful and will, ultimately, cause more harm than good.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines cardiac activity as any detectable motion within the heart. Banning abortion procedures when fetal cardiac activity has been identified is an unreasonable condition. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, cardiovascular development can begin six weeks into a pregnancy, at which time many women don’t yet realize they are pregnant. Women who do have enough time to realize their condition are given insufficient time to make a decision about the pregnancy. The decision to have an abortion is complex and difficult; it is unethical to put such a reduced timeframe on the process. Without blatantly banning abortions, the law includes severe constraints that make it nearly impossible to get an abortion.
The law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The New York Times stated: “It does permit abortions for health reasons, but the exceptions are narrowly drawn, allowing a termination only if the pregnancy could endanger the mother’s life or lead to ‘substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.’” By excluding these very real circumstances in which a woman would seek an abortion, it could lead to troubling outcomes, such as women reverting to unsafe and unregulated procedures.
Another troubling aspect of the law is that it deputizes citizens to police abortions. According to The Washington Post, “it allows people–anyone living in the state of Texas–to sue an abortion provider or anyone else they suspect is ‘aiding and abetting’ abortions after that six-week mark…The law sets a $10,000 award (to be paid by the defendant) for any successful lawsuit to stop an abortion.”
Ordinary people aren’t trained in policing. The law incentivizes people to report on neighbors and friends. Vigilantism shouldn’t be allowed, let alone encouraged.
Some people may argue that the law benefits women by providing more information about their pregnancy, including showing and listening to the embryo’s heartbeat. While this is a valid stance, it is problematic because it can make an already difficult decision increasingly traumatizing for the woman.
This new law passed in Texas essentially eliminates a woman’s ability to obtain a safe abortion without undue stress and stimgmitization. The law interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, which was once held sacred. Citizens being incentivized to take the law into their own hands is something out of a dystopian, “Purge”-esque society. Is America doomed to fall into a deeper state of suffering and injustice, or will these absurd restrictions be recognized for what they are?