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Texas' new abortion law is a new-age witch hunt

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Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood
Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood

On Wednesday, September 1, Texas' new abortion law went into effect, now making it a felony for anyone to receive or perform an abortion after just six weeks of gestation. The law appears to violate the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling, which legalized the right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The current Supreme Court refused to even listen to challenges against the new law.

How could this happen?
In the final 2016 debate against his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, candidate Donald Trump remarked, "I am pro-life, and I will be appointing pro-life judges. I would think that [abortion] would go back to the individual states." Although he is now out of office, Trump's decision to appoint judges who would reverse Roe v. Wade having lasting effects on the nation.

After the tragic passing of a legendary feminist icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg one year ago this month, Republican leaders in the Senate pushed to hastily confirm President Trump's nominee to the court, Amy Coney Barrett.

Barrett has spoken openly about her Catholic beliefs and pro-life stance, leaving many to fear that their reproductive rights might be on the chopping block. Barrett joined two other Trump nominees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, pushing the court heavily to the right.

The push to confirm Barrett was controversial, as it came just weeks before the presidential election. This was a stark contrast with 2016, when Republicans blocked President Obama's nomination on the grounds that it should wait until the voters spoke in the next election, which at that time was many months away.

If Ginsburg still had been on the high court instead of Barrett, surely the legality of the new Texas law would have been examined. Ginsburg was a champion of women's rights, never passing up an opportunity to voice her opinion for gender equality.

With the Supreme Court's new conservative majority, many fear that more laws like the Texas "Heartbeat Bill" may soon be passed. Conservatives have argued that abortion rights should be determined by individual states, but when a state like Texas declares abortions after the sixth week to be a felony, it challenges federal rulings on abortion, such as Roe, incredibly complicating the issue.

What are the repercussions?
According to the new Texas law, nearly all abortions after six weeks are illegal. This means that by the time most unforeseen pregnancies are detected, it is already too late.

The law also cracks down on those willing to help women receive the procedure. Doctors who perform illegal abortions in Texas can be sued, jailed, and lose their licenses. Even friends and family who are aware of a woman's plan to leave the state for the procedure, or help by giving a ride, money, or loaning a vehicle, can be accused of conspiracy and charged. Abortion patients themselves, however, cannot be sued.

The law has also created a witch-hunt mentality, empowering "any private citizen to sue Texas abortion providers who violate the law, as well as anyone who 'aids or abets' a woman getting the procedure," according to the AP, rewarding snitches with up to $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone involved in an illegal abortion.

The ramifications of this law are monumental. Low-income Texans who do not have the means to leave the largest continental state for an abortion will be required to carry a pregnancy to term. The medical bills related to such an experience alone can be life-shattering.

For those who can afford to travel for the procedure, abortion clinics in neighboring states are already starting to fill up, leaving poor families in other states with fewer opportunities to receive an abortion.

Low-income mothers aren't the only ones whose lives are affected by this new law. Trans men and nonbinary people may sometimes seek abortions, especially as the experience of undergoing a full-term pregnancy is incredibly difficult for a Trans person's mental health and gender identity. Doctors often gatekeep female sterilization procedures, meaning that those with female reproductive anatomy may continue to run the risk of an unintended pregnancy even if they don't identify as a woman.

Rape victims have also been affected by this harsh new law, even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott denies these arguments, claiming the Heartbeat Bill will actually help prevent rapes. With abortions now harder to access, victims of rape are now forced to carry a resultant pregnancy to term in Texas. For a victim who does seek an abortion, the attacker has a right to sue, possibly receiving the $10,000 bounty or legal custody rights to the product of their crime.

The penalty for abortion is now harsher than what many rapists face across the country. With this law, women will become no more than incubators, carrying the children of men who now have equal say in their reproductive decisions.

Pro-life or anti-women?
Texas' new law has been disguised by conservatives, who claim it is a way to sanction and protect life. However, as the law functions, it is actually a way to punish women for their sexuality — with no consequences for male sexuality. The new abortion law is not pro-life; it is anti-women.

The sentence pregnant women in Texas face is like none other. It is a nine-month sentence for anyone with a female reproductive system who finds herself unintentionally pregnant. A person imprisoned by their own body is in a jail cell they can never truly escape.

The policies surrounding Texas' family planning laws reinforce what women across the country already know: these laws were never about life. They are merely a way to control female bodies. The law rewards Texans for hunting down and accusing women of receiving abortions, providing more legal rights to an unborn child than to the woman carrying it.

Over 40 unlicensed border facilities remain open in Texas, where migrant children are routinely taken from their parents and forced into appalling conditions. The "pro-life" argument goes silent when immigrants die in such facilities, when Black people die at the hands of the police, and when low-income families starve. If the Texas government really cared about the sanctity of life, it would enact more laws to help the children that have already been born and continue to struggle under the harsh realities of racial injustice and poverty.

The fact that the federal government has not yet intervened against such an oppressive law reflects what our post-Trump America looks like: a country where women's rights will continue to be under attack.