In light of the recent changes to the law regarding access to abortive healthcare in Texas, Gareth Holmes looks at the implications of the new restrictions not only for people who need access to abortions, but also for those who assist them.
On the 1st of September 2021 the state of Texas passed over 600 new laws, many of which favour gun owners and target immigration, but none were so horrid as the law that bans abortion after six weeks. This ludicrously small window of time is all that is given to someone to discover that they are pregnant, then make the decision of whether they wish to have an abortion or not.
It has been heavily documented that there are numerous reasons as to why a person may be six weeks late in menstruating, such as stress, health conditions like PCOS, the perimenopause and many others. This list also includes hormonal birth control, so the idea that six weeks is enough time is frankly ludicrous and is only there to prevent the law being unconstitutional in the face of the landmark Roe Vs Wade.
Roe vs Wade made it the right of every woman to have access to abortion care and it seems the law in Texas flies in the face of this – on the surface, it very much does, however, there has been a real effort to make sure that this bill passes and that is by handing the reigns of prosecution to private citizens.
For the purposes of this law, every Texan is effectively an attorney general
Not content with simply banning abortions, the new law allows any private citizen to sue someone seeking an abortion, including those who may help the person in question, such as the doctor, nurses, and even the uber driver who took you to the appointment. For the purposes of this law, every Texan is effectively an attorney general and can sue as often as they like, with that person being awarded at least $10,000 dollars if successful.
The first lawsuit is taking place already, this one being against Doctor Alan Braid who performed an abortion on his patient because he believed they had a fundamental right to this care. He is being sued by a former Arkansas lawyer who is still serving 15 years of a home confinement sentence due to tax fraud.
The American Civil Liberties union warned that by having private citizens rather than state officials overseeing the process it would give rise to abortion bounty hunters, claims that were dismissed by the supporters of the bill, yet already website hosting service ‘GoDaddy’ had to shut down chat spaces dedicated to submitting tips on people they believed were breaking the law. This post was set up on the same day the new law came into power.
Adding to the horror of this already damning situation is the fact that rape victims who become pregnant are not allowed access to abortive healthcare after the six-week window has collapsed. With many victims of rape already facing a monumental battle to come to terms with what has been forced upon them and knowing what awaits them in the form of victim shaming and reopening the trauma, this new law is simply cruel.
Continuing this mockery are the words of former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell, who was instrumental in the construction of the legal framework of Texas’ new law. “Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion; they can do so by refraining from sexual intercourse,” Mitchell wrote in the brief. “One can imagine a scenario in which a woman has chosen to engage in unprotected (or insufficiently protected) sexual intercourse on the assumption that an abortion will be available to her later. But when this court announces the overruling of Roe, that individual can simply change their behaviour in response to the court’s decision if she no longer wants to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.”
This new law sees that horrid reality moving one step closer
Mitchell is a staunch anti-abortionist campaigner and speaks poorly of “Wealthy pro-abortion states” like California. He, like many other men in the American political system, support states such as Texas, Alabama, and Georgia who all have ‘trigger laws’ that ban abortion if Roe Vs Wade is overturned – which, to this day, many members of the conservative congress are working on; this new law sees that horrid reality moving one step closer.
This law is simply the exertion of control over a person’s body because of deeply held religious beliefs. In the words of Texas Governor Greg abbot “Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” He said this as he signed the law, ironically putting him at odds with one of America’s founding fathers Thomas Jefferson who called for a wall between state and religion, setting a dangerous precedent for the future of the American legal system.
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