America is regressing. The landmark Roe v. Wade case seemed to mark an era toward feminism and toward acknowledging women’s right to choose what to do with their own bodies, but after 19 states have implemented or are planning to implement bills banning or severely limiting abortion, Roe v. Wade is in peril, and with it women's rights. The state in the limelight is Texas – its Senate Bill 8 (SB8) bans abortions after about six weeks, making it one of the strictest laws in the country. The Supreme Court’s decision to let the unconstitutional law stay in place jeopardizes women’s rights even further, setting a deadly precedent for America as a whole.
On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued their decision for Roe v. Wade, stating that a woman’s right to an abortion is protected by the 14th amendment’s right to privacy – effectively overturning another Texas law at the time that banned abortion and only allowed it if the child bearers life was at risk (victims of rape and those in poor environments were given no exceptions). The ruling that overturned Texas’ law only allowed abortions until roughly 24 weeks of pregnancy, or “capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was predominantly illegal, turning women away to dangerous, lethal abortion-inducing drugs or even to self-induced abortions. In the 1960s, the number of illegal abortions was up to 1.2 million.
The parallelisms today and back then are clear. The number of women traveling out of state are rising, with clinics all the way from Alabama, California, and Washington reporting increased numbers of patients from Texas. In 2013, after Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2) banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and shrunk the number of abortion clinics from 42 to 19, the Texas Policy Evaluation found that up to 240,000 women had attempted to end pregnancies on their own following the bill (which was later overturned and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court). HB2 and today’s SB8 both harm Latinos and minority groups the most, who make up roughly 40% of Texas’ population.
Aside from banning abortions after about only six weeks – an extreme cut from Roe v. Wade’s 24 weeks and also far too little time for women to determine that they’re actually pregnant – SB8 encourages individuals and outsiders to report anyone who has gotten an abortion or has helped someone get an abortion, such as giving a friend a ride to the now only 23 open clinics. This specification is wildly strange for involving random individuals who are not at all related to someone’s pregnancy, an obvious violation of privacy and yet another burden of scrutiny pushed onto women. It also makes no exceptions for rape or incest victims, much like Texas’ bill from the 1970s – Dr. Ingrid Skop, a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that “even a girl as young as 9 or 10, impregnated by a father or brother, could carry a baby to term without health risks.” Horrifying.
On December 10, the Supreme Court again refused to block the abortion bill after cases with the US Department of Justice and in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts cited Former Chief Justice John Marshall: “If the legislatures of the several states may at will annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution becomes a solemn mockery."” This statement rings true – the Texas abortion bill is undoubtedly unconstitutional, and women’s rights and safety are undoubtedly at risk.
However, there are still ways to help and fight for women’s rights. Join organizations that fight for women’s rights and abortion rights, and donate to help support Texans who are looking for a legal abortion. And, imperatively, stay educated and open-minded, and raise awareness on the issue by discussing it with friends, peers, and those around you. Women’s rights should not and cannot be taken away again.