Feminist’s Disclosure: Abortion rights

By Leila Salam

With Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signing the new heartbeat bill into law, women’s rights to bodily autonomy continue to crumble. This new measure would prohibit abortions in Texas as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, according to the Texas Tribune.

The law requires abortion providers to check for a fetal heartbeat and bans any abortion if one has been detected. The law makes exceptions for if the physician believes a medical emergency exists but does not make exceptions for cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.

The bill almost outright bypasses Roe v. Wade because at six weeks, many women have no idea they are pregnant.

WOMENS ABORTION RIGHTS: Texas law dramatically decreases women’s access to safe abortions. (Illustration by Elaine Huang )

This is an complete infringement on womens’ basic human rights and has an inherently negative impact on women, particularly women of color. Due to issues like structural racism, discrimination and income inequality, women of color are more likely to be covered by healthcare plans that don’t offer access to abortion, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. This creates an extra hoop for them to jump through if they need to get an abortion.

If women are forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy or have a child they are not financially prepared to take care of, they will be prevented from continuing their own lives and achieving their own goals. Additionally in the US, motherhood can essentially become a poverty sentence, with 6.5 million below the poverty line, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This equates to nearly one in five mothers of minor children across the country, which illustrates the severity of what is at stake.

The Texas heartbeat bill was signed soon after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Mississippi case pertaining to a law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks. This case could have drastic effects — changing nationwide abortion laws for the forseeable future, according to the New Yorker.

This is harmful for a variety of reasons, especially because the majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal at least in some circumstances. Specifically, a 2019 Gallup poll showed 53% of Americans believe abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, while 25% believed it should be legal with no restrictions and 21% thought it should be completely illegal.

Another issue with these restrictions is that they rarely have the intended effect. Reducing safe access to legal abortions only leads to the rise of unsafe, illegal abortions according to the US National Library of Medicine. Studies show that the best way to reduce abortion rates is not through increased abortion restriction, but rather more access to contraceptives and effective sex education, according to the New York Times. It is completely unreasonable to keep increasing abortion restrictions if they don’t even have the intended effect of reducing abortion rates. All that ends up happening is women lose access to adequate healthcare and bodily autonomy. 

Furthermore, it is unacceptable to prevent women from making decisions that pertain to their own bodies and these increased restrictions on abortion rights will only cause negative impacts to women. In order to prevent more bills like the heartbeat bill from having horrible effects, we need to provide more widespread access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptives. If we don’t, women’s rights will suffer the consequences.