Written by Anushka Angle & Dipika Pujara
For centuries, women have been struggling to fend for their rights regarding voting, jobs, social responsibilities and natural processes such as pregnancy. Up until 1973, the termination of an unwanted pregnancy — except to save the woman’s life — was illegal, but due to the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, women gained the right to have an abortion regardless of the rationale. However, the debate regarding the ethicality of abortion has been ongoing. As of 2021, Texas has initiated a ban against abortion known as Senate Bill 8, which is deemed the most restrictive in the country as it bans abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy, making no exceptions for pregnancies due to incest or rape.
Constitutional protection toward abortion and Pre- Roe v Wade:
During the court case Roe v Wade, A Texas woman Norma McCorvey wanted to terminate an unwanted pregnancy since she could not financially support her baby and had already given up her previous children for adoption. Women who did not have the financial means to keep their child sought after illegal unsafe means to terminate their pregnancy. There was a surge of “back-alley” abortions and dangerous drugs in the 19th century advertised to induce abortions that were proved to be fatal to women. Even though women who were wealthy had the option to travel to another country to undergo a procedure where abortion was safe as well as legal, many American women, like McCorvey, did not fall under this category thus inciting a protest for legal abortion. On January 22, 1973 after a 7-2 decision, the court declared a women’s right to abortion is protected by the 14th amendment: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.
Alan Braid and his protest:
In an effort to protest against the newly initiated Texas ban, Texas physician Alan Braid conducted a procedure on the morning of September 6th to terminate the pregnancy of a woman in her first trimester, which is beyond the state’s limit of 6 weeks into pregnancy. Braid learned from a medical school in Texas that abortion is an integral part of women’s health care. He fears that the ban will cause more harm as he has witnessed similar events in the past. The abortion ban can affect the woman’s life as a result of desperaration, or ultimately affect the physical and mental health of the child after birth. Once the ban is enacted, Dr. Braid is afraid that history might end up repeating itself and the emergence of life threatening attempts at abortion may resurface. “At the hospital that year, I saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions,” Dr. Braid mentioned when he was practing medicine before 1973. A large demographic of unwanted pregnancies consists of teenagers who are not in the mature mindset of raising a family yet, and, due to their vulnerability and desperation, many of them ended up taking their own lives along with the lives of their fetuses. After the Supreme Court ruling, Roe v Wade enabled him to do the job he was trained to do — to give fair treatment to all pregnant women regardless of financial status. “I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” Dr. Braid wrote. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
Indirect Restrictions Before Senate Bill 8
Even before the Texas ban was enacted, the state still had some restrictions regarding abortion and made the process more difficult than it needed to be. There was a 24-hour waiting period placed causing a woman to make at least two trips to the clinic. In addition to this inconvenience, ultrasounds were mandatory, and parental consent was required for minors, unless the minor acquired a court approval. Although abortion was legal during this time, Texas placed many inconveniences, making the whole process more expensive and non discrete for minors — particularly those with stressful familial relationships. However, abortion up to 22 weeks was still legal and compassionate care was still given by doctors even though the process was elongated.
Effects of the Legislation
The legislation passed in May 2021 banned abortions when the pregnancy reaches a benchmark of cardiac activity being detected. This tends to occur at a point where the woman may not even know she is pregnant, and if she does there’s a chance that she may not even get an appointment within the regulated deadline. To make matters worse, the law doesn’t make any exceptions for rape or incest, both involuntary acts forced upon women yet the woman is held responsible. In situations like these, history has reflected that many women find a way out of these laws by performing at home abortion methods — methods that tend to harm or kill the woman. Laws that have placed restrictions on abortions increased “maternal mortality by 38% and that a 20% reduction in Planned Parenthood clinics increased a state’s maternal mortality rate by 8%.” In an attempt to try and save the life of an unborn child, these government regulations are ending the lives of mothers who are incapable of raising a child. Former medical director of Planned Parenthood in Missouri, Dr. David Eisenberg, explained that when you remove resources such as Planned Parenthood, “you eliminate the ability for people who become pregnant to decide what’s best for them and their health and their family.” The consequences of this are a decline in maternal health as well as overall public health.
Texas is paving the way for other conservative states to follow in their footsteps. If these states get what they want, the consequences for the female population will be detrimental. In addition to the wave of maternal deaths we will witness, to overturn Roe v. Wade means to digress in the efforts made from the beginning of the Women’s Movement in the 1960s. Aside from the injustice faced by Texas females, Texas government regulations set the precedent for more laws that “infringe on other constitutional rights.” The uncertainty of future legislation builds anxiety — this pent up sense of discomfort that won’t be settled until a solution is achieved.
Edited by Nidhi Talasani