The Controversial Insight on Texas Abortion Laws

Jannah Toure, Staff Writer

To keep privacy of opinion, I have only used the first initial of the students I interviewed for this article.

TW: mentions of rape.

The new Texas abortion law seems to be more restrictive- and more controversial- than ever. Here is what’s going on with the newly-famous bill 8.

Surrounding judicial rulings, in mid-May 2019, abortion of a fetus after 22 weeks was effectively banned in 16 states. This was enacted because it was proven that this was around the time that neurobiological development tended to occur, leading to the assumption that those were the proposed periods in which a fetus can feel pain. However, this has not yet been scientifically proven. Research can point to this conclusion, but it has not been published. The only other ways to have a legal abortion after 22 weeks in states that don’t allow it, were rape, fatal fetal anomaly, and incest, and that’s in 4 states.

Fast-forward to two years later, May 19th, 2021. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed the nicknamed Texas ‘Heartbeat’ Act into law. This bill prohibits the abortion of a fetus as early as six weeks into a pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. It also proposes an opportunity for any private citizen to sue abortion providers. When asked if they were in support of this new bill, a portion of the  students I interviewed answered with some variation of ‘absolutely not’. 

Whilst doing my interviews, I prompted the students with the question; why do you think this bill is bad, for if they answered that they weren’t in support of it, and why they thought it was good if they were in support of it. One student, ‘S’, said; “ Six weeks after pregnancy is a period that is mostly missed for the first two weeks. Your period not coming can also be ruled out to stress, so, I don’t wanna question if I’m just stressed, or am I pregnant?” Another student, ‘SI’, said “I think they’re a baby step. For starters, they don’t completely outlaw abortion, but they are a good start. It was passed so quickly, but less quickly in comparison to legislation that had been attempted to be passed before.”

On September 1st, 2021 the new bill took effect and was met with praise- and an equal, if not more, amount of criticism. In regards to the bill being signed by predominantly men, a Broad Run freshman, ‘M’, replied with; “If you don’t have a uterus, you can’t control what I do with my body.”

The public voiced that it was completely breaching the distinguished Roe v. Wade ruling, but proven by congressional testimony, the act is not a violation (see section 2 of the bill itself). “Roe v. Wade understands that, yes, unborn babies are human beings, but they don’t recognize their personhood, and until that personhood is recognized abortion can be legal.” Said student ‘SI’.

The philosophical concept of personhood is a very tricky topic to navigate. There are many variations and opinions on it; so here are the main three variations of it. No. 1: Genetic Criterion made by John Noonan. Simplified, this says that you’re a person if you have human DNA, and you’re not a person if you don’t. This criterion is mostly deemed problematic and is mostly ignored because most philosophers think of the human as a biological term, and person as a moral term. Another variation is Criteria For Personhood, made by American philosopher Mary Anne Warren. This states the criteria for personhood are consciousness, reasoning, self-motivated activity, capacity to communicate, and self-awareness. The last variation is the Gradient Theory of Personhood. This states that personhood comes in degrees, and you can have more or less of it as time goes on. Now, I’m no philosopher, so I encourage you to learn more about this subject and form more educated opinions on them.

 The bill bans abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, which usually shows up on a transvaginal ultrasound around 3-4 weeks after conception, or 5-6 weeks after LMP (last menstrual period). The act applies to LMP, barring abortions after 5-6 weeks. Other states in the past have enacted bills similar to this, but this one has a motivating factor. 

Anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider, whether you’ve had an abortion or not, could be given at least $10,000. This means that if a provider continues to yield abortions after six weeks in the state of texas, they are at risk of being sued. However, this does not mean you can report the people who are having abortions, just their providers.

Late Wednesday, September 1st, the Supreme Court decided to not block the Texas bill. The vote came in at 5-4, many blaming it on the conservative views of such justices. Now, the decision leaves room for abortion providers to further challenge it in the future, as the opinion was left unsigned. Many believe that said providers will bring it back to the Supreme Court, later on. Thursday, September 2nd, President Biden condemned the decision, saying it “unleashes unconstitutional chaos.” With President Biden opposing the court rulings, other politicians such as Nancy Pelosi share his opinions. She voiced that the House will vote on a reproductive rights bill, in wake of the Supreme Court declining to block the Heartbeat Act. However, it is deemed unlikely that the legislation will pass. 

It has been less than a month since this bill was passed, and already, has had many people threatening it. The amount of protests, the House wanting to vote on a reproductive rights bill, and the soon able to send it back to the Supreme Court, leads to a major question; will this even last long enough to become infamous? When asked this question, students were eager with their replies. A student, ‘H’, said; “If I’m being honest, I think it’ll last for a little bit of time, but I’m not really sure.” However, when I asked freshman ‘A’, he confidently said; “Yes. Texas is a red state.” Many others said things along the lines of ‘hopefully, no’. As of Wednesday, October 6th, the law has been temporarily halted and some abortions have been resumed.

Later on, I decided to circle back to the topic of general opinions on abortions. When asked, many students had varying opinions. Student ‘AD’, who said; “If a woman wants to have an abortion because she feels that she can’t support the child, if she was raped, or if it was incest, she should be able to have a choice on if she should abort the baby or not.” and student ‘H’, who said; “A woman doesn’t have to carry a child if she has medical reasons, or personal fincial reasons, or was raped. You don’t have one [a baby] if you don’t want to.”

In opposition to those statements, student ‘A’ said; I support the law because I don’t want babies being killed.” When asked about the exceptions of rape and incest, His friend chimed;  “No abortions whatsoever- no abortion.” ‘A’ followed that up with “If it’s really late, I have something against abortion. If it’s early, it’s just terminating cells.” Which is a statement many would agree with. Along with student ‘A’, student ‘SI’ said; “Since life begins at conception, that means that unborn babies are scientifically human beings. If we don’t protect their human rights, who else’s human rights can be protected? They’re an innocent group of human beings who are being targeted for arbitrary reasons.”

This so-called Heartbeat Act has ignited passion and anger on both sides of the pro-choice pro-life scale. With protest rates high, political issues loud as ever, and different views and opinions all around, there are many questions to be asked and hopefully- answered. Will this bill spread to other states? Will this bill be crushed in the hands of the law? Will people start moving out of Texas so they can freely have abortions? Will the teen mortality rate go up because of dangerous at-home abortions? These are questions that you can find answers to. So I encourage you to go and do your research, ask your questions, and form your own opinions. The future is up to you- and there’s no time like the present.