The red state’s recent move could ultimately overturn Roe vs. Wade.
With public concerns involving individual rights after healthcare mandates, the Supreme Court’s majority decision has the potential to further government control of half the U.S. population’s bodies.
On September 1, Texas’ Senate Bill 8 went into effect. The bill bans abortions once a fetal hearbeat is detected, which is typically occurs at six weeks of pregnancy. The new law also allows citizens to file civil lawsuits against those assisting women in getting an abortion, including abortion providers. If successful, accusers can attain up to $10,000 in damages.
“The defendant — whether a provider, funder, clergyperson, friend or family member — pays the damages which are set at a minimum of $10,000. If there are several defendants, they each pay $10,000 in damages,” explained professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law Elizabeth Sepper. This could incentivize potential “bounty hunters plaintiffs” according to Sepper.
Beforehand, some providers and advocates filed an emergency request of the U.S Supreme Court to block the legislation before its effective start on Wednesday. The Court also had the option to send the bill back to the lower courts. Despite the left-leaning Associate Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Beyers joining moderate Senior Justice Roberts in dissenting, pleas fell on a majority of deaf ears as the Court ultimately voted 5-4 to not stop the bill.
Some would say this promotes hyper-vigilance of women’s reproductive systems, a reality the male portion of the population does not have to deal with.
“The right of a woman or girl to make autonomous decisions about her own body and reproductive functions is at the very core of her fundamental right to equality and privacy,” as asserts a U.N. Human Rights special procedures report.
“The decision as to whether to continue a pregnancy or terminate it, is fundamentally and primarily the woman’s decision, as it may shape her whole future personal life as well as family life and has a crucial impact on women’s enjoyment of other human rights.”
The move is already being mirrored in the region. Clinics in states like Oklahoma and Colorado have seen and continue to anticipate patient hikes. To date, this is the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Thus, threatening landmark legislation for women’s reproductive rights.
The silence heard around the country
The Roe vs. Wade case legalized abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy, a time that many conservatives believe a life has developed. Texas’s new legislation could serve as a precedent that conservatives could employ in future cases and potentially overrule the 1973 U.S. Supreme court decision.
“Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities,” said the White House in a statement. Since President Biden is America’s second Catholic president, opponents claim his public views clash with the religion’s conservative teachings.
Currently, the U.S Supreme court justices include Chief Justice John Roberts, associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen Beyer, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
With the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year and the appointments by President Donald Trump, the court has become increasingly more conservative. Now, six of the nine are right-wingers including Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.
Justices serve lifelong terms.
Companies like Lyft and Bumble along with residents have made their dissatisfaction known.
According to Forbes, a survey of college educated professionals may avoid moving to Texas due to its attempt to dictate what women residents are allowed to do with their reproductive systems. Those already in Texas may contemplate moving out. Women consistently make up about 56.1 to 57.4 percent of Texas’ college educated population.
Moreover, although she may not always know she is pregnant, the average time women are made aware of their pregnancy is around six weeks according to a study by Amy Branum and Katherine Ahrens. The typical rate for late pregnancy awareness, which is post 7 weeks, sits at 23 percent.
Although granting them the right to an abortion, Roe vs. Wade did not guarantee equity in access to impoverished populations via implicit systemic bias against people of color. Therefore, the aforementioned phenomenon is prevalent among Black and Latina women compared to their white counterparts, the increase is also seen more in unintended versus intended pregnancies.
Furthermore, approximately 77.7 percent of abortions are performed at or before 9 weeks and nearly all occur at about the three month mark. Rarely do women receive abortions past the 13 week mark, according to a 2018 CDC abortion monitoring report.
On one hand, the U.S. population is aging. Thus, the new law could help mitigate a long term question surrounding population growth. On the other hand, this could also mean a surge of forced pregnancies and poverty via broken homes among other ills as three million pregnancies are unplanned per year in the U.S.
With midterm elections rapidly approaching, Texas’ growing blue portion could be motivated to remove proponents who supported the new legislation. Voters, especially women, are watching.
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