by alice campbell ~
Last month, the state of Texas banned abortions from taking place after six weeks, even in the case of rape or incest. The new law completely undermines the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision, Roe v Wade – which established women’s constitutional right to the procedure.
Given that most women are unlikely to be aware that they are pregnant at six weeks, Texas’ decision amounts to a near-total abortion ban where once again women are unable to make their own choices, over their own bodies.
The ruling in Texas is an unusual one. Rather than strictly enforcing a ban, the legislation allows anyone in the world to sue those involved in “aiding and abetting” abortion care for at least USD 10,000 plus legal costs.
This could be the partner that is wiping away her tears, this could be the therapist that has been asked for advice, this could be the mother that is trying to support her daughter, this could even be the Uber driver who has been instructed to take a pregnant woman to the clinic for her procedure. In short, women have not just been denied what was once their constitutional right, but every encounter a pregnant woman, seeking an abortion, has with anybody, becomes a liability. Not only is this an infringement on women’s right to choose but it creates a cruel silence around reproductive life and fertility.
Studies across the world have proved that banning abortion does not work, rather it pushes them underground, making them unsafe and life-threatening. The World Health Organization calculated that nearly 50,000 women die annually as a result of complications from unsafe abortions and this number is likely to increase now that America’s second-most populous state has implemented this archaic and frankly dangerous law – how is that compatible with the pro-life argument?
One of the campaign narratives behind Texas’ abortion law was the idea that women who are faced with unexpected pregnancies are all like Sarah Palin, and actually did not know that we wanted a baby until the state kindly enforced it and showed us the joy of motherhood. To note, I am not denying this joy but the most common reasons behind women seeking abortions come down to necessity and survival. 40% of women state lack of financial support; 31% state unstable or an abusive relationship; 20% state that it would interfere with their vocational and educational goals; 19% state mental health reasons; and 12% simply state that they are not ready. These would all be credible and understandable justifications for ANY other decision women have to make, apart from when it comes to their reproductive choices.
Realistically, if I lived in Texas and got pregnant, it is unlikely that I would know before six weeks. To put it politely, my body isn’t as “scheduled” as some would naively think. And while I can easily look away from Texas, a situation that is 5,000 miles away from me, what happens there, matters here. Texas’ law might be the first “successful” attempt at dismantling the right to an abortion in America, but it certainly follows a series of previous, and in many cases, close legal decisions. The Supreme Court’s decision on Texas is an open invitation for the anti-abortion agenda to be fueled further which is likely to lead to more legal cases, as already seen with Mississippi, and devastatingly some more “successful” ones.
The reality is that Texas is a reminder that while it is easy to get clouded in the positivity of progression – look at Ireland, Argentina, Mexico – as fantastic as it is to see, women’s rights will always need to be fought for, and Texas’ actions have proved just how fragile they are. It is so important that we continue the march and never take for granted what so many remarkable people in history have won for us.
It might be slightly cheating quoting another author but The Times columnist, Caitlin Moran, beautifully wrote that love is a verb. It is a process of feeding and clothing; providing housing and warmth; nurturing and fostering. One of the saddest realities of this new law is not just the consequences for these many women, but for these children who are being brought into the world, not out of love but through legal requirements and enforcement. We must strive to stop this, in Texas and across the world, every woman deserves to have the right to decide not just when to have children but when not to.