The Texas Abortion Ban: What it means and how it will affect women






In May 2021, a new restrictive abortion law for the state of Texas known as the Senate Bill 8 was passed by Texas lawmakers. The bill was due to come into effect on September 1st 2021. However, it was blocked and then later reinstated by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals on the 8th of October. Three days after this, it was blocked again on the 11th of October by a suit brought on by the Biden Administration. District Judge Robert Pitman granted the request of the Biden Administration to halt the law acting whilst its legality was being challenged. On the 1st of November, The Supreme Court suggested that they are reconsidering their stance on the Texas abortion law and could let abortion providers pursue a bid to invalidate the law.

The bill details that women are prohibited from abortion after six weeks of pregnacy, or as soon as an ultrasound can detect a fetal ‘heartbeat’. However, after five weeks of pregnancy, two tubes which will become the heart have formed, and between six and seven weeks the heart tubes twist and bend into an ‘s’ shape. This cardiac activity does not even confirm that the pregnancy is viable. The law states that the length of pregnancy is measured from the last day of the person’s previous menstrual period. Therefore, anyone with a regular 28 day menstrual cycle would be considered four weeks pregnant the first day their next menstrual period is late. This would give people with a regular menstrual cycle only two weeks to arrange and receive an abortion from the first day their mentsrual period is late. The bill makes no exceptions for cases involving rape or incest and, unusually, instead of having the government enforce this law, Texas have given private citizens the ability to sue abortion providers or anyone who assists someone in receiving an abortion after a fetal ‘hearbeat’ has been detected. These citizens would not need to prove any connection with the person seeking an abortion, and one pro-life group known as the ‘Texas Right to Life’ has set up a so-called ‘whistleblower’ website where citizens can anonymously report people they believe are seeking or are involved in an abortion. If private citizens win their lawsuit, they gain $10,000 and their legal fees are covered.

However, there is an exemption to the law for what is very loosely termed a ‘medical emergency’. What the Texas government seems to be failing to see is along with the physical effects of having to carry a fetus to term, the mental effects of being pregnant are also immense. Some stakeholders would deem that the mental toll that pregnancy places on certain people (especially if the pregnancy is unwanted) is a ‘medical emergency’ in and of itself. Therefore, the Texas government is clearly placing a greater importance on physical health above mental health. David Hanscom argues in Psychology Today that ‘many people may consider physical health to be the foundation of a productive life, if you examine the chemical effects of the mind on the body, it is clear that mental health is the driver of your physical health’. By forcing people to keep unwanted fetuses, the Texas government could seriously impact the mental health of many people. It is possible that being compelled to carry an unwanted fetus to term could lead to higher cases of postpartum depression and higher suicide rates. Dr David Eisenburg, a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist who is an abortion provider, estimates that the new bill could mean an increase in maternal mortality of up to 15%.

Researchers at Texas University have said that the law would particularly affect black patients and people living on lower incomes. For many people, they would not have the money to get an abortion with just two weeks notice. They may need source money very quickly to be able to access an abortion. The new bill limits the time they have to do this and may encourage people to find money through illegal means. This also puts them at risk of prosecution and therefore ruins lives further. Furthermore, this bill will also increase the likelihood of people seeking abortions from unsafe providers. This could lead to the death of both the fetus and the person carrying it, resulting in more death than if the person was able to get a safe abortion. Overall, the mental and physical ramifications of the Senate Bill 8 can be seen to question the validity of the ‘pro-life’ stance.

By Megan Barr

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