Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill on May 19 that would ban most abortions in Texas. This bill would prohibit abortions 6 weeks into pregnancy.
We saw Georgia attempt to pass a similar law in 2020. However, Georgia’s ban on abortions after six weeks was nullified in July of 2020 for violating Roe v. Wade—the 1973 case that established the constitutional right to an abortion.
But will our new conservative court uphold Roe v. Wade this time around? Will they contradict a precedent set nearly 50 years ago?
Our circumstances changed in July of 2020 when Georgia’s abortion ban was struck down. On September 18, 2020, beloved Supreme Court Justice and feminist icon Ruther Bader Ginsburg passed away.
Former President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to take Ginsburg’s place and has been serving since October 27, 2020. Judge Barrett undoubtedly shifted the court toward the right, as she has a record of conservative voting on most issues—including abortion.
Judge Barrett on ‘Roe v. Wade’
As Margot Sanger-Katz reports in The New York Times, “Analysts at the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks the bills, say legislators have been mobilized by the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.”
This analysis holds credible as we can see states like Texas and also Mississippi attempt to take advantage of Judge Barrett’s position in the court as they work to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Barrett declined to speak about her views on abortion laws during her confirmation hearings, but she is viewed “as a home run by conservative Christians and anti-abortion activists” according to The New York Times.
However, Barrett said, “Roe’s core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don’t think that would change.” She does think, though, that current restrictions could be qualified or intensified.
For example, signing this bill in Texas means that private citizens could sue providers of the banned abortions. This clause is distinct from most other abortion restrictions, as states enforce most restrictions. Thus, it seems that the Texas government’s goal is to make it more difficult for abortion providers to defend themselves in court.
What are the consequences of Texas’s six-week ban on abortions?
Lack of abortion access in the South and Midwest
- Overturning Roe v. Wade would not effectively ban abortion everywhere in the US, but “legal abortion access could effectively end for those living in much of the American South and Midwest, especially those who are poor,” as written in The New York Times. This would mean that “forty-one percent of women of childbearing age would see the nearest abortion clinic close, and the average distance they would have to travel to reach one would be 279 miles, up from 35 miles now.”
Is it a ban on all abortions?
- Prohibiting abortion after six weeks is extremely restrictive; many pregnant individuals may not even realize they are pregnant by the six-week mark. If these mere six weeks are meant as a window for choice, then this window is not big enough. How can someone exercise their right to choose if they may not realize that they have a choice to make? Prohibiting abortion after six weeks is thus essentially a ban on all abortions in Texas.
Increased risk of death and injury
- More restrictive abortion laws do not effectively reduce the number of abortions. They do, however, increase the risk of injury and death. When laws limit access to safe abortions, individuals may resort to dangerous methods for ending pregnancy. The World Health Organization reports that “Around 5 million women are admitted to hospital as a result of unsafe abortion every year,” and “almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications.” If we restrict access to legal and safe abortions, we only add to the number of people at risk to injury and death.
Abortion restriction and discrimination
- Abortion restrictions also exacerbate problems of racism and discrimination in the US. These laws will disproportionately impact people with low incomes, BIPOC communities, and also the LGBTQ community. Individuals within these groups may experience added barriers to accessing reproductive health care. African American women have a higher maternity mortality rate than white women in the US; they are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth. Additionally, “poverty rates on average are higher among lesbian and bisexual women, young people, and African Americans within our community,” as outlined by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Those experiencing poverty may have a harder time paying for proper health care or taking time off work to get the care they need.
These are few of many inequitable consequences that would result from abortion restrictions.
The freedom of Americans is being put to the test yet again
Americans have experienced trauma after trauma these past couple of years with the pandemic, the tense election, the storming of the capital, and the unjust deaths of AAPI and Black people in the US that reveal just how ugly and bigoted the U.S. is. And now, women’s bodily autonomy is also up for review.
Will we continue to defend women’s constitutional right to an abortion and support the communities that take the brunt of abortion restrictions? Or will we regress, upsetting a precedent we have held for half of a century? Now is the time to act.
If you would like to defend a person’s right to an abortion and fight these restrictions, here are a few petitions worth signing: