By Andrea Hernandez, Guest Writer
Abortion has always been an extremely sensitive topic in politics, religion, and in society in general, due to the moral and legal struggles it entails. It has been legal in the United States for decades, yet it remains as one of the country’s most controversial subjects. The debate surrounding this topic has become what is probably one of the hardest things women have had to deal with. Anti-abortion laws are taking women’s right of choosing what is best for their own bodies away from them. Any government issued law regarding abortion has a direct effect on women around the world and it affects them all equally. However, no one seems to think about or understand the possible consequences that come with banning the medical procedure of abortion. The debate around this topic refers to the ongoing controversy surrounding the moral, legal, and religious status of induced abortion. It forces people to think about the meaning of human “life,” along with other ethical issues. These women have been abandoned by their authorities who are supposed to make their environment feel safer. An abortion ban affects women of any age, background, religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It is a violation of their rights. Women not having the accessibility to a healthy and safe abortion can have serious consequences on their mental, physical, and reproductive health. Anti-abortion laws, like the recently admitted Texas Abortion ban and others, have turned what is considered an effective healthcare option into a safety hazard, and it will lead to severe consequences.
Recently, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that would prohibit abortions in the state of Texas as early as six weeks generally. It has caused women not only in Texas, but all around the world to feel outraged, sickened, and terrified. The Texas ban basically prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in a fetus by a medical professional by giving ordinary people power to sue those involved in performing abortions in exchange for a financial incentive. Cardiac activity can usually be detected at around six weeks of pregnancy. However, this is not enough time for a woman to even realize that they are pregnant, much less to decide if they want to go through with it or not, so what options are really being offered here? By the time a woman misses her period, she is four weeks pregnant. This is without considering women with irregular periods who are not exactly aware of the exact start date of their last period. The Texas law implies that two weeks is enough for a pregnant woman to find out she is pregnant, take a test, decide what she wants to do, and go through with an abortion if they choose to do so. This law went into effect despite the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to the procedure, making the state the most restrictive in the nation in terms of access to abortion services. There have been other similar laws passed in other states. However, those measures have been legally challenged. The Texas Abortion Ban is the first to be implemented, since the court refused to block the law on a vote of 5 to 4. Due to the way the law was written, it creates some difficulty for people to be able to challenge it in court. Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio states that “it is extremely possible and very common for people to get to the six-week mark and not know they are pregnant. Forcing them to find out about a pregnancy and make a decision about how to manage it in a short period of time is antithetical to ethical care.” The Texas law is not reasonable at all, and it obviously was not made with the intention of caring for women’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, this law does not make exceptions for cases of rape or incest, which is even more concerning. There is a very narrow window of exceptions, only including certain health reasons. However, it only allows a termination if the pregnancy has or could endanger the mother’s life. Dr. Nash stated that the termination of the pregnancy could also be allowed if it were to “lead to substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” These conditions are terrifying for women in Texas and around the world. If a policy like this was implemented in one place, it means it could be paving the way for the same policy to be applied in more places in the future. This does not create a safe environment for sexual assault victims, rape victims, or women in general. As it was previously mentioned, an interesting thing about this law is the way state officials are not the ones encouraged to enforce it. Instead, it has been designed so that private citizens are able to sue anyone who performs or assists to perform an abortion. Basically, anyone, even if they have no connection to the patient or clinic whatsoever could sue and collect legal fees, as well as $10,000 if they win.
Laws like The Texas Abortion Ban affects mostly women in vulnerable populations, such as teenagers, low-income people, people of color, and undocumented immigrants. Seven million women are the childbearing age in the state of Texas. The Texas Abortion ban would make it extremely hard for all of them to obtain abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, around 70 percent of abortions in Texas in the year 2019 were provided to women of color, including undocumented immigrants. Abortion providers in the state of Texas estimate that at least 85 percent of the patients seeking for an abortion are already six weeks pregnant, which means they would be denied. Minors who seek to get abortions in the state of Texas need to obtain permission from a parent or legal guardian, which sometimes includes going to court to do so. Six weeks is not enough time for someone to realize they are pregnant, much less to go to court to obtain access to abortion care. The executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, which helps low-income women pay for abortions, Kamyon Conner said she was concerned about the impact of this ban on Black women in Texas, since they already face high maternal mortality rates. The Texas law does not consider any of these situations. What about undocumented women who are also at a great risk without having access to safe abortions? They are unable to travel easily around the country to get access to abortion care, and a lot of the times, they might not have the facilities to go through a pregnancy or take care of a baby. Society will pressure women into having kids yet will not have the same interest in what happens next for both the mom and baby. Even in the abortion debate, the law should regard women as individuals with rights instead of just as a container for the fetus. How is it beneficial for anyone to force a woman to have a baby when she might not even have enough resources to sustain herself? Women who are low-income understand more than anyone the impact that unplanned childbearing would have on them and their families. It would not only interfere with their work or school, but it could also affect their already limited financial status. Abortion bans are not effective because letting a fetus live does not guarantee that they will have a good life. Kids need a home, education, shelter, food, clothes, a family, and of course love. They deserve emotional, psychological, and financial stability. Children and teens enter foster care because they have been neglected, abused, or abandoned and are unable to live in a safe environment. There are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, and many of them continue to get mistreated. No one thinks about them as much as they do about an unborn fetus. Forcing women to bring more children into this world when the United States government is unable to care for the already living children in their custody, seems extremely ironic and hypocritical. It seems like there is something about the fact that it is a woman deciding over her own well-being that does not sit well with society, which results in absurd government-issued laws that restrict the access to a safe medical procedure, like the Texas Abortion ban.
By restricting the access to safe abortions, women are forced to obtain the procedure in unsafe ways. This is a very common method in developing countries. Sadly, laws like the Texas Abortion ban encourage these unsafe methods of abortion, no matter what part of the world they are implemented in. Ending a pregnancy is a common decision that millions of people around the world make all the time, regardless of what the law says. Criminalizing the procedure does not stop the fact, it just makes abortion less safe for the mother. Each year in the U.S. between 4.7% – 13.2% of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion. An unsafe abortion is defined as “a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy carried out either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both.” Banning what could be a perfectly safe medical procedure puts women at risk by forcing them to turn to illegal abortionists. The World Health Organization deems unsafe abortion as one of the easiest preventable causes of maternal mortality and a staggering health issue. It is difficult to obtain accurate data for the number of unsafe abortions done in the United States and around the world. These procedures are mostly done clandestinely, which means they mostly go undocumented. Methods of unsafe abortion include drinking toxic fluids such as bleach, turpentine, listeriosis, organic solvents, digesting heavy metals, or drinkable concoctions mixed with livestock manure. Other unsafe methods include inflicting direct injury to the vagina or other part of the female reproductive system. For example, inserting herbal preparations into the vagina or cervix; placing a foreign object such as a metal coat hanger, twig, or others in the uterus; or placing inappropriate medication into the vagina or rectum. Some women are so desperate, they are willing to injure themselves to have a miscarriage. This could mean throwing themselves down a flight of stairs, jumping off a roof, or inflicting blunt trauma into their abdomen once the fetus is more developed. Women should not have to put themselves through this. They should have a supporting healthcare system that ensures value to their lives and their personal decisions regarding their health. Another example of unsafe abortion methods that many women turn to is going to an unskilled provider to perform dilation and curettage, which leads to uterine perforations and severe infections. Countless women are hospitalized every year for pursuing these methods. The main causes of death from unsafe abortion include hemorrhage, sepsis, infection, genital trauma, and necrotic bowel. This is without including those women who tragically pass away because they cannot even afford to be hospitalized after pursuing one of the aforementioned abortion procedures.
The Texas Abortion ban, along with other anti-abortion laws, is a safety hazard for women around the world. It is sad to see how unreliable authorities are when it comes to women’s healthcare and well-being. It feels like society goes against every possible option that allows women to live freely and in a safe environment. The Texas Abortion ban is anything but beneficial. It clearly has little to no regard of women’s lives, and the way it is set up seems so much like a joke it is disrespectful. They put a lot of effort into making it as unhelpful as possible. Lives are being lost every day and in much worse ways than a medical procedure, but no one seems to mind. Society keeps telling women how to live, how to act, how to dress, how to make decisions, yet there are no opportunities for them to better their lives instead of putting them at risk. Women are expected to fill this “mom” role, in which success is defined by if they have kids or not. They are expected to want and have those kids, which is why so many people jump at the idea of a pregnant woman obtaining an abortion. It seems like an abomination because it does not meet society’s standards of women’s “motherly instincts.” If women a certain age do not have kids, they are shamed. However, the moment a young woman has a child, she is also shamed. People love to have a say in what women do with their bodies, especially when it comes to pregnancy. However, where are these people once a child is birthed? It sounds like society just cannot stand seeing women making decisions for themselves.