By Barbara Alvarez
Anne Nicol Gaylor Reproductive Rights Intern
Freedom From Religion Foundation
Abortion rights are in crisis in Texas. On Sept. 1, abortions in the Lone Star State will effectively become illegal. Under Senate Bill 8, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May, all abortions that take place as early as six weeks’ gestation will become illegal. To be clear, many women do not know that they are pregnant at this stage. And even if they did, abortion access in Texas is so jeopardized that obtaining timely care can be insurmountable, depending on where a woman lives. As such, millions of women soon will not be able to practice their constitutional and human right to end an unwanted pregnancy.
And while 12 other states have passed similar legislation, the Texas bill is unique because it emboldens civilians to enforce this law. That means that disinterested parties, such as coffee shop baristas, friends, family, and neighbors could sue abortion providers or even the Uber driver providing transportation to a clinic if they suspect a patient might be six or more weeks pregnant. The law even provides a bounty incentive to anyone ratting out an “illegal” abortion. Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to stop this law in federal court in July, targeting every state trial court judge and county clerk in the state, as well as the attorney general, the state health department, and the director of Right to Life of East Texas, Mark Lee Dickson. They are cautiously optimistic that justice will prevail. Nevertheless, this legislation is draconian and will undoubtedly serve as a blueprint for other antiabortion states.
The religious nature of Senate Bill 8 is not hard to find. When Abbott signed this bill, he said, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” Protecting life is a curious statement from a governor who is advocating for a ban on mask mandates while COVID-19 cases surge in his state. Additionally, the antiabortion group, Texas Right to Life, was instrumental in drafting this dangerous bill. The group describes itself as one that “legally, peacefully and prayerfully protects the God-given Right to Life of innocent human beings from fertilization to natural death.” This extremist organization doesn’t prioritize the life of the pregnant woman even in cases where the pregnancy endangers her health and life.
The majority of abortions take place within the first 12 weeks of gestation. Without access to abortion care, Texan women will be forced to endure lengthy and expensive trips to surrounding states to a clinic. This will exacerbate the health and economic inequities of low-income women. Furthermore, women will risk being sued by everyday civilians if they are suspected of traveling for an abortion because of this Christian extremist bill.
There is no scientific or medical reason to ban abortions. Abortions are extremely safe and do not cause health, emotional, or mental complications to the woman. In fact, complications occur in less than one quarter of one percent. Additionally, studies have shown that 99 percent of women do not regret their abortion. In fact, they feel relief.
All abortion bans, including this outrageous Texan ban, are religiously rooted. It is not an exaggeration to state that women will die because of this abortion ban. We must unrelentingly support science and women’s rights — women’s lives demand it.