The Rabbit Hole That Is The New Texas Abortion Law

Amina Parks, Staff Writer

How far should state governments go to make something essentially impossible to attain for its citizens? 

The answer to this question is something that the citizens of the state of Texas are grappling with today as the state’s new abortion law – officially called Senate Bill 8 – makes it nearly impossible for women to terminate a pregnancy in the state after 6 weeks of pregnancy. 

In Amber Phillips’ article “What to know about the Texas abortion law” from the Washington Post, she explains the details of the law. She writes, “The law, which was passed in May and went into effect Sept. 1, says that any pregnancy in which a heartbeat is detected cannot be aborted. That effectively means if you’re six weeks pregnant, you cannot have an abortion in Texas, because that is around when most fetal cardiac activity can be detected.”

To many pro-choice advocates, Senate Bill 8 is a setback for women as it is considered one of the strictest new abortion laws to go on the books since the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade case that protected women’s right to choose to have an abortion without government limitations. 

According to Phillips, “Doctors opposed to this legislation say that is misleading language, and that the fluttering detected isn’t always necessarily a heartbeat so early in a pregnancy.” Kevin Reynolds of The Texas Tribune also reported on the response by doctors, quoting the Texas Medical Association as saying that the association supports “our physicians specializing in women’s health and opposes legislation in Senate Bill 8 of Texas’ 87th legislative session and Senate Bill 4 of this special session. SB 4 contains language that criminalizes the practice of medicine. Both bills interfere with the patient-physician relationship.” 

Texas Governor Greg Abbot gave insight on the bill on the day he signed it into law. According to Shannon Najmabadi for The Texas Tribune, Governor Abbot stated that the legislature  “worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”  

Najamabadi notes, “The governor’s signature comes just after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hear a case concerning a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, and which could lead to new limits on abortion rights.” Najamabadi claims that the impact of this is important because, “it is the first major abortion case heard before the court’s newly expanded conservative majority, and could have far-reaching effects for Texas, where a pending bill would outlaw nearly all abortions if the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade.”

As for the Supreme Court’s future actions, The Washington Post’s Phillps explains how the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Mississippi case plays a role in Texas’ Senate Bill 8. She states, “The justices didn’t decide whether the abortion ban is constitutional. They just said it will stay in place while that question is litigated. That was an unexpected move that could signal the court is ready to strike down Supreme Court precedent created nearly 50 years ago.” 

While the court made it clear that Senate 8 bill remains in effect in Texas, Ian Millhiser of Vox notes that the law could face some legal challenge in the near future, pointing out that Millhiser states “while SB 8 remains in effect after the two new orders, the Court did take two steps suggesting that it wants to bring the litigation over this Texas law to a close fairly soon.”