By: Gabby LeBron
On the first of September, Texas passed a rigid law, titled Senate Bill 8, banning most abortions in the state. This law prohibits any abortions after doctors detect a fetal heartbeat, which usually occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy. Senate Bill 8 has been the most restrictive American abortion law passed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which famously ruled strict abortion laws to be unconstitutional.
S.B. 8 also allows any private citizen to bring civil lawsuits against a pregnant woman found guilty of seeking an abortion. The law provides an incentive of $10,000 awarded to those successful at the end of the lawsuit. Any private citizen, including family members, neighbors, Uber drivers, or abortion clinic staff, can accuse a pregnant woman of seeking an illegal abortion. This also extends to citizens outside of the state of Texas. The law does include an exemption for medical emergencies, but nothing for other extenuating circumstances such as incest or rape.
For abortion opposers, this has been a long-awaited victory; Republican Governor Greg Abbott stated that the law “ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.” However, the law has been met with criticism from Democrats who argue that at the six-week mark most women are unaware they are even pregnant. This leaves little opportunity for them to seek out safe abortions. For these reasons, Democrats and women’s health activists have been putting increased pressure on Democratic President Joe Biden to take action against the bill since its enactment.
On Wednesday, President Biden called Senate Bill 8 “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” and stated that, “the Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes”. According to Texas health data, 30% of all abortions performed in 2020 were for Black patients despite the fact that only 12% of the state population is Black. Hispanic women, who had the highest percentages of abortions in Texas last year, may be unfairly targeted by the law as well. On Thursday, the Biden Justice Department sued Texas, claiming that S.B. 8 “illegally interferes with federal interests.”
The legal challenges between Texas and the Biden administration could continue for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, the Texas bill has encouraged Republican lawmakers to enact similar abortion bans in their states. S.B. 8 has started a larger conversation on women’s health and rights to abortion throughout the entire country that will likely not end anytime soon.