Trigger warning: Mention of Rape
Oct 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge by President Joe Biden's administration and abortion providers to a restrictive Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion and set the date for arguments in the case for Nov. 1.
We’ve all heard of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down a Texas legislation banning abortion all the way back in 1973, stating that the Right to Privacy stipulated by the 14th Amendment extended to women's right to have abortions. Although this did not come without subsequent challenges, it was a defining moment in history, constituting a victory for reproductive rights activists. Though it is still law, this constitutional right of an American citizen is under significant threat owing to the newly passed Senate Bill 8 in Texas State Law which came into effect on September 1. This regressive law bans abortions on pregnancies past six weeks, making no exceptions for even victims of incest or sexual assault! This restriction on one’s right to choose is extremely controversial as it is possible, and highly common, for a pregnancy to go undetected even at the six-week mark. Bills like this have been introduced in the past, but for one to actually come into effect has rightly caused disturbance throughout the USA.
The law bars abortions ‘once cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo,' which in reality is not a real heartbeat but rather an electrical activity—as their valves are undeveloped at this stage. Not only is this a major threat to anyone who's the carrier of a uterus, it also verges on public policing. This means that it provides an incentive to private citizens to sue those who may be involved in the process of an abortion, by ‘aiding or abetting’— whether it be an Uber driver who drove a woman to the clinic or the nurse who helped perform the procedure. This kind of attack on the rights of women isn’t the first to be observed in the U.S., and taking into consideration the rollout and the consequences of this law coming into effect, it might not be the last.
Abortion was initially legal in the country, but there was a move towards a ban in the late 19th century. Unsurprisingly, it was a tactic to control and suppress the growing women’s rights movement and similarly today, this law imposes control over anyone with a uterus, reducing them to the role of a child-bearer with no choice in the matter. And it doesn’t stop there- as the legislation has even drummed up apprehensions among pro-choice activists in Iowa about the introduction of more restrictive bills in their state, and in other Southern and Republican-led states as well. In less than a month of implementation, even a brain drain effect has been detected i.e., a substantial migration of individuals to another state due to the dissatisfaction, fear and anxiety caused by this law. PerryUndem conducted a poll, according to which two-thirds of college-educated adults said that they would be discouraged from working in the state due to the ban, and the disapproval was noticeably high among minority groups.
Who does this abortion ban affect? The law gives six weeks to an individual to notice a missing period, get tested for pregnancy, deliberate on a future as a parent, make a decision and go through with it. In reality, this time is less than two weeks as it would take at least four weeks to realize that a due period never came- even less for those who have irregular cycles or simply do not track the same meticulously. Imagine having to hastily make a decision that might alter the rest of your life because you’re afraid that the doors will close on you if you’re a minute late. Moreover, the most shocking and criticized feature of this law is that rape and incest victims aren’t exempted- which in practice, is forcing one to carry the child of their abuser or a product of an incestuous act to term. For a survivor of the same, it is unimaginably strenuous to go through a possibly hellish experience caused due to something they never asked for in the first place- showing the lack of minimum compassion on the legislature’s part. Besides, even in the presence of abortion bans and legal prohibitions, people in history have taken to performing the same in a covert manner. People will still get abortions but will now be under pressure due to the fear of facing legal repercussions, in possibly hazardous conditions. It's a kick-starter for more reproduction-based health complications and deaths. Abortions performed surreptitiously can be subject to unsanitary and unsafe conditions, which is incredibly dangerous to one's health, especially when we talk about self-induced ones.
A sinister provision of this law is the bounty system, which makes it more difficult to be challenged, and more terrifying than ever. If private citizens do end up suing someone who has allegedly aided or abetted abortion, and are successful in doing so, these plaintiffs can collect $10,000 plus legal fees as a reward. And we are well aware of the lengths humans will go to for money. As it is a citizen and not a state official enforcing this law, challenging its constitutionality is virtually impossible.
The stance of pro-life holds no weight, as a pro-lifer may tell you that a child can always be put up for adoption. When we consider the crippling crisis faced by the foster care system in Texas, we realize the fact that no real provisions are being made to improve the quality of life of the children who will be forced to be brought into this world by virtue of this law, by someone who may not have the means or the will to raise them. While children in foster care sleep in CPS offices and unlicensed facilities due to inadequate funding and development, it becomes clear that the legislation is a Republican attempt to steal the rightful autonomy of women over their bodies, and nothing else. Are these the ideal Christian household values Texan Republicans wish to uphold? Often in the hands of 'pro-life' activists outside clinics and even outside churches, in the form of placards, signs and instalments, gruesome images villainising abortions can be seen, some even irrationally equating it to shooting someone. It's ironic to claim aborting a fetus is brutally taking away a life, when the children already in the system, as well as the reproductive health of women, are neglected time and time again.
The unexpected nature of this law has left many in a state of shock and uncertainty. In an already polarized nation, this ban going into effect has created a dreadful and unprecedented future for women all over the USA. If other states follow up on this pattern of laws that attack about half of the total population, crafted so carefully that dissent and challenges against them are unlikely to hold up in court, then Supreme Court precedents like Roe v. Wade lose their gravity. This law has, by leaping backwards and dredging up retrogressive beliefs, managed to create a future that is neither protected nor safe.
The American dream is dead; and this time, the unreachable Green Light at the end of Daisy's dock is the power women ought to have over their own bodies, which forms the cornerstone of their Right to Life and Personal Liberty.