On Sept. 1, 2021, the United States Supreme court shocked the nation after failing to block a Texas bill that bans abortions after the 6-week mark. This new law, Senate Bill (SB8), is highly challenged by public health officials and organizations that are dedicated to protecting female health. One question that is going around is how is this new bill going to affect the well-being and access to healthcare in the future?
The 7 million women that live in Texas are having their reproductive rights stripped away from them as well as their right to privacy, life and individualism promised to them by the US constitution. Under this law, women will be forced to carry through unwanted pregnancies or they will be punished for getting abortions.
The bill refers to the abortion cut-off as the moment a ‘fetal heartbeat’ can be detected in the uterus. This goes against medical knowledge as at 6 weeks the embryo has yet to develop organs and the ‘heartbeat’ that is detected is electrical pulses shared between cells that make up the embryo. The new definition ensures that the embryo is seen as a viable fetus; however, most miscarriages happen at the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court and Congress determined through Roe vs Wade that a viable pregnancy has been reached at 22 weeks as the risk for a miscarriage significantly decreases by then. SB8 rolled back one of the most important aspects of Roe vs Wade thus removing its status as precedent.
Additionally, identifying a pregnancy before 6-weeks is unusual and often not the case for most women as pregnancy is generally found out at 8 weeks. Should a woman realize she is pregnant before the 6 week period, receiving abortion services in Texas is extremely difficult as there is a 24-hour wait period after an initial consultation and sonogram prior to receiving an abortion. This gap combined with the limited number of clinics that provide this service in Texas makes accessing the abortion before the 6-week deadline almost impossible.
This law not only stripped away the rights of women in the clinic, but in public too. It expanded policing; instead of it exclusively being done by state officials, Texas is encouraging the public to take part too. According to CBS News, an incentive is given through a $10,000 bounty as part of private lawsuits as an incentive for members of the public to police and report any individuals they believe to have been involved in aiding an abortion. This massive financial incentive puts women and other people at risk of constant monitoring as strangers are allowed to have a say in their lives and their choices.
As we are a fellow red state, another major question stemming from SB8 is, how does this new Texas law affect abortion laws in North Carolina? Although abortions are currently legal, lawmakers with opposing views are agreeing with the new precedent set from the US supreme court by not blocking SB8.
According to the News and Observer, this Supreme Court ruling came out at a time when North Carolina’s Republican-led state Legislature is getting ready to redraw the political districts for the upcoming elections for the next decade. How these districts are drawn and how the supreme court rules on these new lines will determine whether or not Conservative lawmakers in North Carolina can mirror Texas and pass a similar ban as soon as 2023.
And it will not be difficult to pass this law. News and Observer also reported that Republicans only need a couple more seats from the upcoming 2022 election to gain supermajority and getting such victory would allow them to override a veto by North Carolinas Democratic Governor Roy Cooper who has blocked abortion restrictions in recent years.
The draconian law is simply an abuse of power and will disproportionately affect women of color, single mothers, and poor women who are going to be forced to look into child care and struggle to work too. It also risks the quality of life that these women will experience and their children, as they do not have the means to look after their children as red state support is minimal.