A Texas abortion law made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Typically, the entire Supreme Court would schedule the case for a hearing, listen to arguments made by both sides, question the hell out of the lawyers, and then take time to make a decision. Instead, the conservative members of the court chose to drop the ball and allow Texas to enforce a six-week abortion ban.
How did we get here?
The vote was 5-4. Those who voted against the Texas six-week abortion ban include Chief Justice John Roberts (nominated by President George W. Bush), Stephen Breyer (nominated by President Bill Clinton), Sonia Sotomayor (nominated by President Barack Obama), and Elena Kagen (nominated by President Barack Obama).
Those who voted to harm everyone in Texas who has a uterus include: Clarence Thomas (nominated by President George Bush), Samuel Alito (nominated by President George W. Bush), Neil M. Gorsuch (nominated by President Donald J. Trump), Brett Kavanaugh (nominated by President Donald J. Trump), and Amy Coney Barrett (nominated by President Donald J. Trump).
In short, a one-term president, who had been impeached twice by Congress, packed the court with three justices of his choice before losing the 2020 election. As such, it makes total sense for President Biden to increase the size of the court with his own choices for justices. Doing so could flip the Supreme Court to outnumber Trump’s extremely conservative justices. If it was okay for Trump to pack the court – then it is okay for Biden to do it.
What should you know about the Texas six-week abortion ban?
The law is called S.B. 8. It is called the “Texas Heartbeat Act”. The purpose of this bill is to prevent a pregnant person from having an abortion. The bill itself uses the word woman throughout it, but it will also affect trangender men who have a uterus and who can get pregnant.
The law is also going to affect anyone under the age of 18 who becomes pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a report that states that the average age of menarche (menstruation) in 2017 was 11.9. That means an eleven-year-old in Texas could become pregnant and be prevented from having an abortion. Keep in mind that was the average age of starting a period. Some children who have a uterus could start earlier than eleven-years-old.
Planned Parenthood explains that pregnancy is times measured by “gestational age”, which starts on the first day of your last period. The first two weeks are when a person is menstruating. About two weeks later, the egg is released from their ovary. The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days.
During weeks three and four, (if the egg has been fertilized), it will move down the fallopian tube and start dividing. It reaches the uterus about three to four days later. About six days after fertilization, it attaches to the lining of the uterus. A pregnancy has occurred – but most people don’t have any recognizable signs that they are pregnant by six weeks.
That’s the main problem with limiting abortion to before six weeks of gestation. By the time the pregnant person understands that they are pregnant – Texas has already prohibited them from having an abortion.
Another terrible (and misinformed) part of S.B. 8 has to do with the idea of a fetal “heartbeat”. That term is often used in bills that are designed to prevent pregnant people from having an abortion. The reason the “heartbeat” is included in these bills is to sound as though it were science. (It is not science.)
NPR reported that the Texas abortion law reads: “A physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child.” The law defines “fetal heartbeat” as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.”
NPR asked physicians about this. Dr. Nisha Verma (an OB-GYN) said: “When I listen to an [adult] patient’s heart, the sound I’m hearing is caused by the opening and closing of cardiac valves. The sound generated by an ultrasound in very early pregnancy is quite different”, she said.
“At six weeks of gestation, those valves don’t exist. The flickering that we’re seeing on the ultrasound that early in the development of the pregnancy is actually electrical activity, and the sound you ‘hear’ is actually manufactured by the machine.”
In short, the Texas bill is full of lies. It was based on “fetal heartbeat”, which is absolutely impossible at six-weeks of gestation. Another physician NPR spoke with, Dr. Jennifer Kerns (OB-GYN) clarified that the correct scientific term for six weeks of development is “embryo” – not fetus. The Louisiana Department of Health makes it clear that an embryo does not become a fetus until week eight (ten weeks after the last normal menstrual period.)
S.B. 8 gets worse. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out the following:
“… The law includes a bounty-hunting scheme, encouraging private individuals to sue anyone in Texas who violates the law. A reward of at least $10,000 will be given to anyone who successfully sues a doctor, health center worker, or any person who helps someone obtain an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Lawsuits may be filed against a broad range of people, including abortion funds providing financial assistance to patients, health center staff, and even a member of the clergy who assists an abortion patient…
The ACLU also stated that “Texas’ ban is different because it allows private individuals to enforce the ban rather than state officials. Anti-abortion politicians designed the law this way to try and insulate it from federal court review…”
This is absolutely terrifying.
First, the “bounty-hunter” stands to make $10,000 if they can successfully sue someone who provides an abortion or seeks one. Texas Tribune reported that the Texas Workforce Commission announced that the U.S. Department of Labor notified the commission that the state’s unemployment rate fell below the threshold to continue the benefits. The last of the extended assistance will be given through the week of September 11, 2021.
When that assistance disappears, it is possible that some people will feel desperate enough to try and get that $10,000. That could mean lying about a neighbor who isn’t even pregnant and insisting that the person is seeking an abortion. It could mean suing everyone in a health care clinic that provides abortion – just because they happen to work there.
It could mean a pregnant person who miscarries could be sued for failing to carry the baby to term. It could mean the doctor whom the pregnant person sought out for help with a miscarriage could also be sued for providing the medical help that was necessary.
Of course, despicable people who are very rich could also decide to become a “bounty-hunter”. The law doesn’t limit who can win a bunch of money by lying about a person being pregnant, or trying to sue the person who miscarried, or the doctors who helped that person. The difference is the rich people don’t need the money and would be targeting people they don’t happen to like.
When I think of the words “bounty-hunter”, I think about the Star Wars movies and TV shows. I think about the “wild west” where “bounty-hunters” went after people who stole someone’s horses or robbed a bank. People who are pregnant – or who can potentially get pregnant – and who live in Texas will now have to worry about “bounty hunters” interfering with their lives.
Everything You Need to Know about the Texas Abortion Law is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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