As of this morning, Friday, June 24, the supreme court has overturned Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years of precedent.
By Anne Cox, Photo by Aiden Frazier
If you or someone you know is in need of an abortion, there are 30 days until these new bans will take effect. Please visit plannedparenthood.org for more information.
While this doesn’t completely eliminate the right to an abortion across the U.S., it does leave that decision up to the states. Many red states, including Texas, already have laws in place that will outlaw abortion completely.
These laws are known as “trigger laws” and will officially go into effect 30 days from today.
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Many believe this will not be the complete list in the coming months. There are other states, such as Ohio and Georgia, that are likely to follow in those 13 states’ footsteps and soon take measures to ban abortion.
Abortion In Texas
Gov. Gregg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law on May 19, 2021, and it took effect on Sept. 1. This bill, commonly known as “The Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” effectively bans abortions in the state of Texas as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Typically around the six-week mark. This means it is currently illegal to receive an abortion in Texas if you are more than six weeks pregnant.
Now, with the overturning of Roe V. Wade, it will soon be a felony to perform an abortion in the state of Texas—period.
Texas House Bill 1280 states that it will be “a second-degree felony offense for a person who knowingly performs, induces or attempts an abortion and to provide for the enhancement of that penalty to a first-degree felony if an unborn child dies as a result of the offense.”
The only exception is if the pregnancy will cause death or “substantial impairment of major bodily function” to the person carrying the pregnancy. Please note that rape and incest are not listed as exceptions to the law.
“Doctors could face life in prison and fines up to $100,000 if they perform abortions in violation of the law. People who had abortions would not be prosecuted under the law.” – Eleanor Klibanoff And Karen Brooks Harper with the Texas Tribune
To put all of this into perspective
Most women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks. According to a 2018 study, 77% of women seeking abortion care in the state of Texas were more than six weeks pregnant at the time of their first mandatory ultrasound appointment.
Autumn Keiser, the director of communications and marketing at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, notes the women who do make it in time to receive an abortion before six weeks of pregnancy “feel pushed, forced, rushed to make those appointments quickly. They know they are potentially pushing other women out of those slots who need that. Not because [there aren’t]enough appointments, but because there’s not enough time.”
In 2021, there were over 50,000 abortions provided to Texas residents.
How Did We Get Here?
To understand what’s happening right now, we first must go back to 2018 when the state of Mississippi passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. After lower courts ruled against the law, Mississippi lawmakers requested a hearing from the Supreme Court. It is thought that this law was always intended to be “a direct challenge out of Mississippi to Roe v. Wade’s landmark holding that the Constitution provides a right of access to abortion.”
The Supreme Court agreed to take on the Mississippi case back in May and started hearing oral arguments on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
What Happened in the Oral Arguments?
The Supreme court is currently at a 6-3 majority of conservative justices. Most recently Justice Amy Coney Barratt, who former President Donald Trump appointed after the death of reproductive rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020.
On Wednesday, Dec. 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Thomas E. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case concerns the constitutionality of the 2018 Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor felt that choosing to hear this case put the validity of the Supreme Court in question. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she asked during the hearing last Wednesday.
Other justices, including the three appointed by former President Trump, presented arguments based on the viability line—the ability for a fetus to survive outside of the uterus—fetal interest, described by Justice Kavanaugh as “fetal life,” and adoption.
Back in May, the court’s decision on this case was leaked to the public, resulting in the uproar of many U.S. citizens who disagree with the ruling. At the time, it was unknown whether the SCOTUS would make additional changes to the official ruling or even change their minds after hearing the backlash.
As of this morning, we now know SCOTUS upheld the opinion did not change central reasoning.
What Happens Now?
In Roe V. Wade, the Supreme court upheld the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, which “protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.”
With this struck down, companies can sell or share data that can potentially incriminate those who are seeking abortion care. A data broker called SafeGraph recently offered “a week’s worth of data on where people who visited Planned Parenthood came from and where they went afterwards.”
As stated earlier, overturning Roe doesn’t ban abortion nationwide, but rather leaves that decision up to individual states. Based on precedence, blue states like California and New York are likely to continue providing access to safe, legal abortion.
There are also many organizations still fighting and advocating for women who are seeking abortions.
As Keiser explains, “We have expanded [our contact center]team to include what we call Patient Navigation. They have become essentially travel agents and help women figure out how to get to Kansas, California, Colorado.”
This team works with patients to help them secure transportation, a place to stay and in some cases childcare to receive out-of-state care.
This is not a viable solution for all people seeking abortion care. Some are not able to fly or travel long distances due to medical reasons. Still, the work Planned Parenthood is doing has helped and will continue to help thousands.
It is commonly stated that a ban on abortions doesn’t end abortion; it just ends safe abortions. According to the World Health Organization, “each year, 4.7% to 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion.”
It Doesn’t End Here
What many are concerned about is the wording in the final opinion. It stated that the right to abortion does not have “any claim to being deeply rooted in history.” (pg. 32)
This language and interpretation could uproot a lot of other landmark decisions the Supreme Court has made. For example, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which guaranteed a right to use contraceptives,andObergefell v. Hodges (2015), which recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
The court did note that this decision only concerns abortion. “We emphasize that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right.” (pg. 66)
However, this statement is not binding, and overturning Roe has left the door open for other legislation to come in and attack those rights.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas South Austin has many resources for those seeking reproductive care of any kind. They’ve also expanded access to their preventative care measures by providing free kits that include emergency contraception, early-detection pregnancy tests and condoms.
If you are seeking care or know someone who is, visit Fund Texas Choice, the Texas Tribune and the World Health Organization websites to educate yourself on some of the issues facing women and learn more about the resources available to you. Call Planned Parenthood first before pursuing other routes.