On September 1st, Senate Bill 8 took effect across the state of Texas. The bill bans abortions as early as six weeks, including for cases of rape and incest, making Texas the most restrictive state in the country. The law goes so far as to allow private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal. Anyone who sues and wins the case is awarded a minimum of $10,000 taken from the defendant. According to the Guttmacher Institute, restricting abortion access does not prevent people from seeking abortions, it only increases the number of unsafe abortions. Likewise, restrictive legislation like Senate Bill 8 takes autonomy away from the patient and allows the state to determine individuals’ private health matters.
According to 2019 data from the state of Texas, black, Asian, and Hispanic people constituted the majority of people having abortions. CNN notes that there is only one abortion clinic south of San Antonio, where an abortion costs up to $800. Residents of southern Texas, a predominately Hispanic area, now face increased restrictions on abortion access. Not only do people deal with outrageous costs, but they now risk being sued $10,000 for having an abortion after six weeks.
What Are the Options?
Option 1: Unsafe Abortion
When a patient receives a non-professional abortion, their safety is at a significantly higher risk than if they had received a medical abortion. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 30 out of every 100,000 unsafe abortions in developed countries result in the death of the patient. The WHO notes that other complications can arise, such as incomplete abortion, hemorrhaging, infection, and damage to internal organs.
Option 2: Adoption
Alternatively, the patient could put the baby up for adoption. While adoption can be a great option for some families, it is ignorant to think that all unwanted children who are born will be successfully adopted post-birth. Even if they are, adoption has its own consequences like emotional issues, identity issues, and cultural issues for those whose adopted parent(s) are of a different ethnic background.
Option 3: Keep and Raise the Baby
The final and most common option is for the patient to have a full-term pregnancy and keep the baby. Dr. Diana Foster, director of research at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, conducted a study on unwanted pregnancies. Dr. Foster found that among women who seek an abortion and are denied, over 90% choose to keep and raise the child. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75% of abortion patients in 2014 were low-income, with 49% living below the federal poverty level. Additionally, 59% of abortion patients had at least one previous birth. This demonstrates that historically, people seeking an abortion are often low-income and caring for previous children. Additionally, it can take some patients weeks to raise the money necessary to pay for an abortion. Now, Senate Bill 8 puts more pressure on this demographic by granting only six weeks for someone to realize that they are pregnant, take time off from work, and save hundreds of dollars to pay for an abortion. Texas lawmakers are well aware that this is nearly impossible.
Sanctity of Life
Texas lawmakers claim that Senate Bill 8 is a matter of protecting the sanctity of life. Using this logic, lawmakers must consider what happens to the life of the patient when their options are restricted. The law puts those most at risk—low-income families, single parents, and people of colour—at an even higher risk of poverty. In Texas, the minimum wage of $7.25/hour and the poverty rate of 13.7% (approximately 4 million people), demonstrate that many people already struggle with everyday costs like bills, daycare, and groceries. Additionally, an article published by BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth states that unintended pregnancy puts the parent at a 20-22% higher risk for depression.
Lawmakers must also consider what happens to the child. If the child is brought into a situation with limited financial means, they are at a greater risk for neglect and maltreatment. A study by the National Library of Medicine showed that unintended pregnancy is an early risk factor for child maltreatment. Mothers with unintended pregnancy can be associated with psychological aggression, while fathers may be associated with physical aggression. Dr. Foster’s study on unwanted pregnancies found that children in the household whose mothers were denied abortions experienced significantly worse socioeconomic outcomes than those whose mothers received an abortion. They also had a greater chance of living below the poverty level.
If Texas lawmakers want to preserve the sanctity of life, they should redirect resources towards helping vulnerable and at-risk populations. They should focus on legislation aimed at helping children in the foster care system who suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide. They should provide accessible resources for single and teen parents. They should advocate for living wages, affordable food prices, and public transportation.
Sex Education and Contraception
To reduce the number of abortions, Texas lawmakers should focus their attention on sexual education and access to birth control. The state of Texas does not require that schools teach sex education. When schools choose to teach sex education, it is used to teach abstinence. Texas, which ranks ninth in the country for teen pregnancies, rejected expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover birth control costs. In effect, Texas has restricted sex education, birth control, and abortions after six weeks. Instead, sex education, including education on contraception, should be mandated statewide. Additionally, Texas should increase access to birth control and reduce costs for low-income individuals and students.
Senate Bill 8 increases the risk of unsafe abortions, poverty, and child neglect. Texas lawmakers have blatantly ignored the research on unwanted pregnancies and they must be held accountable. We must push back against Senate Bill 8, demanding that the focus be shifted towards statewide sex education, accessible and affordable contraception, and living wages.