Women in the United States have been fighting the government for their fundamental rights regarding contraceptives and abortions since the early 1960s, when many states prohibited the sale of contraceptives - even to married couples. The Supreme Court Case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) ruled that these laws were unconstitutional and violated a couples “right to privacy” regarding decisions of childbearing. The ban of prohibitive laws was extended to unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), and in 1974, the right to purchase contraceptives was extended to unmarried minors..
As the popular view on sex continued to change, laws aimed at restricting abortions began to appear. Throughout the 1960s, there was no national standard on abortion regulations, and many states outlawed the practice. By 1965, illegal abortions made up one-sixth of all pregnancy related dealths in the United States according to official reports; however, doctors think the actual number of deaths from illegal abortions was a lot higher. The attempts to prohibit abortions particularly hurt low-income individuals: a survery conducted in the 1960s found that of women with low-incomes in New York City who had obtained an abortion, eight in ten had attempted dangerous, self-induced procedures.
On January 22, 1973, the case of Roe v. Wade was brought before the Supreme Court. An unmarried Texas mother claimed that the state was violating her constitutional rights by banning abortions. The court agreed in a 7-2 vote, establishing a woman’s legal right to a safe abortion in the United States. Roe v. Wade prevents many individuals from dying due to unsafe, unregualated abortions.
Today, Texas’ new Senate Bill 8 is turning back the clock and challenging this ruling.
As Senate Bill 8 was signed into law in May of 2021, Governor Greg Abbott proudly stated, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life. And yet, millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives.”
Senate Bill 8 strips women of their fundamental right by banning abortions after an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers have defined as a fetal “heartbeat,” which can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Six weeks, or two weeks after a missed period, is typically before a woman even knows that they are pregnant. The bill does not make exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, who have become pregnant due to the crime against them: it only allows exceptions for medical emergencies. In order to get around the guidelines of Roe v. Wade, this law will rely on enforcement through private citizens or “whistleblowers.” Nearly anyone can sue a doctor, provider or person, who performs, has the intent to perform, or helps a woman get an abortion. As this law goes into effect, many women in Texas are left with dangerous methods of abortions that put their lives at risk as their only option.
The purpose of Senate Bill 8 is by no means to “save children” under the word of God, for if that were the case, the Texas government would also focus as much attention on saving and providing a good home for every child living in their state. Instead, Texas continues to rank low in almost all categories when it comes to children’s welfare.
The Senate Bill 8, instead, is a direct attack on women, especially minority women.
According to Planned Parenthood, nearly one in four women receive an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is common. Whether you are aware of it or not, you more than likely know someone who has experienced the hardship of an abortion.
These women seek out abortions for a multitude of reasons. Data collected between 2008 through 2010 asked women about the reasons why they had received an abortion: the predominant themes identified as reasons for seeking an abortion included financial reasons (40%), timing (36%), partner-related reasons (31%), and the need to focus on other children (29%). Most women surveyed also reported multiple reasons for seeking an abortion (64%).
However, the lawyer who wrote the bill, Jonathan Franklin Mitchell, fails to acknowledge the real reasons women have cited for their abortions. In a recently filed amicus brief in Dobbs, the Mississippi case seeking to reverse Roe v. Wade, he expresses an almost mocking, dismissive tone as he insinuates that women rely on abortions as a “fallback method of birth control.” He also chooses to overlook women who seek abortions after rape or incest. Mitchell further argues that women can “simply change” their behavior by avoiding sex to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Under Senate Bill 8, wealthy women living in Texas will still be able obtain an abortion by either going out of state or paying who they need to pay. By making abortion more “inconvient,” Mitchell is intentionally targeting low-income, minority women seaking abortions.
While Texas is the only state that has successfully passed a law that essentially overturns Roe v. Wade, Senate Bill 8 jeopardizes the security of Roe v. Wade nation-wide and access to safe abortions for the rest of the country going foward.
Overturning Roe v. Wade would put more than 25 million women at risk of losing acces to abortions, which is equivalent to more than a third of women of reproductive age in the United States. That means that 25 million women would now be at risk of dying by an unsafe abortion. Are 25 million lives worth the clump of cells that are being forced into the world?
Recent data collected by the Guttmacher Institute showed that abortion rates are roughly equaly in countries where abortions is broadly legal and in countries where it isn’t. Banning abortions does not lower the rate of abortions performed; it only reduces the number of safe abortions performed. No woman should have to put their life on the line for a medical procedure that has a safety record of over 99% in the United States. To decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies that end in abortion, the United States needs to focus on policies that prevent pregnancies from occurring in the first place: creating any universal healthcare coverage, increased access to birth control, decrease in price, and increased accessibility to Plan B (which is not an abortion pill), and the implementation of a national sex education program to teach children how to have safe sex and not to simply remain abstinent.
Implement policies to help women, not put them in danger.
Bella Irlando is a sophomore at Davidson College from Atlanta, GA, currently on track to major in Public Health with a focus on policy.