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Yesterday, Texas banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — with no exceptions for rape or incest. This is the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. We wanted to break down exactly what’s going on and how to help…
What’s happening in Texas?
The Texas abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8, went into effect on Wednesday, September 1st. The law bans most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo — usually around six weeks of gestation. Six weeks is very early in pregnancy, and many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that stage. (I didn’t know I was pregnant with Toby at six weeks!)
So, most women won’t be able to obtain abortions?
This new law is a near-complete ban on abortion in Texas. Eight-five to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy. “By the time a pregnant woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant, as doctors usually define it,” reports the New York Times. “Under the Texas law, then, a woman would have about two weeks to recognize her condition, confirm the pregnancy with a test, make a decision about how to manage the pregnancy and obtain an abortion.”
What about rape or incest?
The Texas law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
How about Roe v. Wade? Doesn’t that make the law unconstitutional?
Roe v. Wade was the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus (usually around 24 weeks).
But, the new Texas law was deliberately written in a way that makes it tough to challenge. Here’s why: If you want to try to block a law for being unconstitutional, you would typically bring a lawsuit that names state officials as your defendants. However! The Texas law bars state officials from enforcing it. Instead, the law deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion.
So, regular people can sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion?
Exactly. People can’t sue the patient, but they can sue doctors, nurses, clinic desk staff, reproductive rights counselors, friends or family who help pay for the procedure, the list goes on. “Even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic” could be sued, says the New York Times. Plaintiffs don’t need to live in Texas or have any connection to the abortion at all. If they win, they’re entitled to $10,000 and attorney fees.
What did the Supreme Court say about this law?
On a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court refused on Wednesday night to block the Texas law. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law had not properly addressed “complex and novel” procedural questions. On a positive note, the Court emphasized that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and that people can still challenge it in court. But, in the meantime, the law stays in effect.
What are some of the reasons a woman may want or need an abortion?
If the woman is a victim of rape or incest. If the unborn fetus or the woman has health problems. If the birth would cause psychological trauma. If the woman can not afford a child. If having a child dramatically interferes with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for her dependents. If birth control fails, and the woman does not want a child. Because it’s her choice and her body.
Can’t women just travel outside Texas to get abortions?
Yes, theoretically, and they can find verified providers here or here. But, for many, many people, traveling out of state is difficult or impossible. Low-income folks, undocumented immigrants, teenagers, parents who don’t have childcare, people with strict work schedules, and many others may not have the time, money, transportation or ability to travel out of state.
“I’m thinking about the Black, brown, low-income, queer, and young folks in Texas,” tweeted Representative Cori Bush. “The folks this abortion health care ban will disproportionately harm. Wealthy white folks will have the means to access abortion care. Our communities won’t.”
How can we help? Where can we donate?
Good question! Here are a few places to support:
* Donate to a Texas Abortion Fund. For years, these organizations have been helping provide emotional, financial, legal, transportation and lodging assistance to anyone who is seeking an abortion. A list of funds are Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, Fund Texas Choice, Buckle Bunnies Fund, Support Your Sistah, West Fund, the Bridge Collective and Clinic Access Support Network. If you’re a minor, Jane’s Due Process provides free legal help. Or you can donate to ActBlue and have your donation split across 10 different funds.
* Support Texas-based organizers. Founded and directed by Black womxn, The Afiya Center organizes and advocates for for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care from a lens of racial justice.
Let’s talk: How are you feeling about this new law? Do you have suggestions of other ways to help? Please share below, and thank you so much. xo
(Photo by Montinique Monroe for The New York Times.)