New Texas Law Sparks Debate

Last month, a law in Texas went into effect that has sparked great controversy around the country regarding women’s rights and the right to legal abortion. The law makes it so that abortions cannot be legally performed after the detection of a heartbeat within an embryo. This detection usually occurs around 6 weeks within a pregnancy. No exception to this law will be made for cases involving incest or rape. Under this law, private citizens can also now sue abortion providers and the individuals who assist a person in obtaining an abortion, such as an Uber driver getting a patient to an abortion clinic. The individuals who bring upon such cases do not have to prove any relation to the person who received the abortion or who performed it, but do have to give reason to believe that the abortion was indeed performed. If successful, plaintiffs in these cases will receive a minimum of $10,000. 

Laws such as the current one in Texas have passed in other states before, but have historically been ruled unconstitutional based on rulings from a 1973 Court Case, Roe v. Wade, that protected the right to legal abortion. This time, however, the Supreme Court has ruled in a 5-4 majority to not interfere with the Texas abortion law, at least for now. In their majority opinion, the Court states, “this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in state courts.” This gives pro-choice Texans who wish for the law to be further challenged and deemed unconstitutional the possibility of doing so. 

This unprecedented decision from the Supreme Court has left many to wonder what makes this time different from previous times when similar bills were passed in other states. Put simply, conservatives have a strong hold in the Supreme Court in ways that they did not when previous laws were challenged. The death of the more liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg allowed for the implementation of the more conservative Amy Coney Barrett nominated by former President Donald Trump during the very end of his presidency, which in itself caused great controversy and debate. The Supreme Court now has a 6-3 conservative majority, with one conservative, Justice John Roberts, who will occasionally side with the more liberal side of the Court, as he did in this Texas abortion law case. 

The passage of this bill into law and the Supreme Court decision to not interfere with it has caused great emotion for both those for the bill and those against it. The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has taken to Twitter to say that, “No freedom is more precious than life itself. Starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion. Texas will always defend the right to life. #ProLife” Governor Abbott, when questioned on how he felt about no exception for rape being allowed under this law, has also said, “Let’s make something very clear: Rape is a crime. And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets. So goal No. 1 in Texas is to eliminate rape so that no woman, no person will be a victim of rape.” The governor reaffirmed his position of not including exceptions for rape or incest in this law by saying that, “Obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”

Others have felt very differently compared to Republican Governor Abbott. Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a key leader of the progressive wing of the Democratic party, was featured on Anderson Cooper’s AC360 segment on CNN and rebutted both the bill and Governor Abbott himself.  The Congresswoman countered Governor Abbott and his comments by saying that “this same type of misogynistic culture that informs this abortion law to begin with; those beliefs are held by the governor himself and the Texas State Legislature…” The Congresswoman proceeded to explain what she believes is the true cause of this bill by stating, “What this is about is controlling women’s bodies… to have more control over a woman’s body than that person has over themselves.” She continued to go on about the issue of rape culture in the United States and how she believes it holds great influence over legislative bodies in our government.

The great importance of this law and the emotion it inflicts on both sides of the argument have left Americans wondering what will happen in the future regarding similar bills and women’s rights as a whole. For one thing, more conservative states are more likely to start passing similar laws to the one Texas has done as it appears as if the Supreme Court will not put an immediate stop to them. Some states that are likely to attempt taking such actions are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Additionally, Texas Right to Life, a pro-life non-profit based in Texas, has set up a website for citizens to report any knowledge they have of unlawful abortions occurring in the state. This does not, however, mean that all hope is lost for those in support of pro-choice ideologies. The Biden Administration Department of Justice has already brought up legal cases against this Texas abortion law in hopes of temporarily putting a pause on it until further actions can be taken to rid of the law for good. Pro-choice organizations have also filed legal cases of their own against the law and are aiding those who seek getting abortions to getting their medical care out of state. Lastly, companies such as Uber and Lyft are offering to pay legal fees if their drivers are sued for providing a ride to an abortion facility to someone in need of such medical care.

Both sides of the current debate over abortion in the United States are very passionate about that topic and are planning on taking important action to make the law reflect their side on the issue. Because of this, it will be important to watch for what occurs next in the coming months.