SB 8, aka the “Heartbeat Bill,” officially went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021. In this op-ed piece, Tori Klein asks the medical community for their insight.
By Tori Klein, Photo by Becker1999
Senate Bill 8: Limiting Texans from Necessary Health Care
Senate Bill 8, commonly referred to as SB 8 or the “Heartbeat Bill,” went into effect Sept. 1 and brought with it some of the harshest abortion restrictions the U.S. has ever seen. The bill enforces a ban on abortions after embryonic cardiac movement, which typically occurs about six weeks into the pregnancy. SB 8 also allows any individual, regardless of involvement in the termination of the pregnancy, to sue abortion providers as well as the people seeking the abortion.
Effects on People with Uteruses: Abortions Will be Incredibly Difficult to Access
“Senate Bill 8 will have a drastic effect on anyone’s ability to access abortion in Texas,” says Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood. Over 90% of abortions are performed after six weeks of pregnancy, meaning that if this bill goes into action, many people will miss their legal window to access safe abortions. To fully understand how this bill will operate, we must look at it within the context of the many restrictions already in place in Texas. Per Dr. Kumar, “There’s the 24-hour mandatory delay, the forced ultrasound, the biased counseling, the ban on insurance use, the specific laws for young people regarding parental consent and judicial bypass, the specific laws around ID requirements and so on. All of these things make accessing care very very difficult. All of the restrictions in place in Texas are an undue burden on my patients.”
In order to make this time crunch, due to the myriad restrictions this bill falls on top of, the person will have to realize they are pregnant, decide to have an abortion, seek care, travel to one of the few clinics in Texas and fulfill the necessary requirements (including the 24-hour waiting period) before six weeks. This labyrinth of requirements to receive abortion care combined with a six-week time stamp makes it incredibly difficult for Texans to receive safe, legal abortion care. Effectively causing a ban on abortions in the state.
Where People Will Turn
A huge concern with SB 8 is where people seeking abortions will turn when they cannot get them safely and legally. People typically have three options when they cannot access an abortion in their state. Self-managed abortions, traveling to a clinic in other states where they can legally seek abortion services or carrying unwanted pregnancies. “[My] biggest concern, as a physician who trained to provide safe abortions,” Dr. Kumar reveals, “is that people will try to do something on their own. Safe abortion services are designed with a trained medical professional completing the procedure in mind. Therefore untrained and non-medical individuals taking the procedure into their own hands causes great alarm within the medical community.
Traveling is also difficult for many people seeking abortions, as it requires time, money, possibly childcare/familial arrangements, time off of work, etc. We must acknowledge that these barriers will impact people differently. People who do not have the financial resources to travel and take time off work may not be able to get their abortions. Many of those people are people of color. Additionally, we must consider the added barriers for people under 18 seeking abortions, Nan Kirkpatrick, the director of External Affairs at Jane’s Due Process, pointed out. If they manage to catch their pregnancy within the six-week window but do not have parental consent for an abortion, the judicial bypass process could prohibit them from approval before the embryonic movement is detected. This means even more young people will end up having to resort to one of the three alternative paths.
This Bill Does Not Reduce the Need for Abortion
While Gov. Abbot claimed SB 8 will “sav[e]50,000 children’s lives” as he signed it into law, Amy Hangstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, points out that the bill “does nothing to reduce the need for abortion.”
It has nothing to do with adequate sex education or access to contraceptives. Both of which have been proven to reduce unplanned pregnancies. It does not give people access to resources, education, financial support, child care or anything else that could make finishing a pregnancy and having a child easier. “None of these restrictions are about preventing the need for abortion or reducing unplanned pregnancy,” Miller states. “it’s about blocking Texans from accessing safe abortions from trained medical professionals.”
Communities with Abortion Access are Healthy Communities
While interviewing abortion providers for this piece, one thing became incredibly clear. Communities access to safe, legal abortion are healthy communities. While it is ideal to reduce the frequency of unplanned pregnancies, people will always need access to abortion care. Miller adamantly states, “Abortion is not a problem. It is one of the solutions to unplanned pregnancy. We at Whole Woman’s Health want to work together to reduce the need for abortion caused by unplanned pregnancy. [This is] done most effectively by adequate sex education and access to contraception.”
People with uteruses will continue to have unwanted pregnancies and seek safe options for care. Things happen. People have sex and get pregnant when they are not ready to have a child. “When people face an unplanned pregnancy,” Miller shares, “they often examine their hopes and their dreams for their future, their identity, their self-esteem, stigmas they’ve heard about abortion. It’s not a careless or cavalier situation. Sixty-eight percent of people who have abortions are parents already. We’re told by the anti-abortion movement that it’s irresponsible young people seeking abortions. But it’s actually mostly parents who know exactly what having another child would mean for them, their lives and their budgets.”
Perhaps, rather than encouraging Texans to tattle on each other and restricting abortion care through a strict bill like SB 8, we as a Texas community can try to respect the lives and decisions of others. As Dr. Kumar shares, “Only my patients know what’s best for them. They know their lives, they know what’s at stake. They’re considering not just themselves, but perhaps the children they already have, their family, their financial situation, what it means to have another child, what it will cost, the logistics of it. An abortion may be the best option for them.”
With everything everyone has been through in 2021, this is not a time to turn against each other. People are trying to put their lives back together after a global pandemic. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of care. Texas needs to start treating its communities with care and respect. Instead this bill enforces cruelty and undue burdens.
What providers want you to know
The providers and organizations interviewed for this piece want you to know they are fighting this bill. Their clinics are still open. They can still be of service to you if you think you might be pregnant and are considering an abortion. Miller specifically shares that she doesn’t want people to lose hope in getting this bill overturned. “It may take some time,” she says. “But we all know it’s unconstitutional.”
This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Austin Woman does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post and we are not responsible or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the article or for any damage or loss to be caused by and in connection to it.