By Grace Green
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law on May 19, 2021. SB8 dramatically reduces the amount of time a woman has to seek out a legal abortion from legal precedent since the landmark 1973 U.S. supreme court case Roe vs Wade.
There are two main sections of the bill: One bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected; and the other allows abortion providers and anyone who is found “aiding or abetting” a person obtaining an abortion to be sued by private citizens. The abortion law now limits physicians from performing abortion care if they detect a “fetal heartbeat”, which is defined in the law as “a cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac.”
This definition of a fetal heartbeat is written in a way that dramatically shortens the window for a legal abortion, which has long been defined by the Casey case (1992) as legal to the point of viability in the event of a premature birth – around 20 weeks.
At six weeks the embryo is still forming into what will eventually be mature systems, such as the cardiovascular system. The “heartbeat” heard during ultrasounds that are specified in SB 8 is defined by Jennifer Kerns, an ob-gyn at UC San Francisco and the director of research in obstetrics and gynecology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, as “a group of calls with electrical activity.” She says, “We are in no way talking about any kind of cardiovascular system.”
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion advocacy group, approximately 85 to 90 percent of people who obtain abortions in Texas are further along than 6 weeks into their pregnancy, meaning this law effectively puts an end to almost all legal abortion in the second largest state in the country.
At six weeks pregnant, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.
To be considered six weeks pregnant, it must be six weeks past the patient’s last period. Most women have a period every four to five weeks. So, six weeks pregnant really means one to two weeks following the womans missed period.
According to Juana Cueva, M.D., ob/gyn at Every Woman Wellness, many women with a regular menstrual cycle don’t even realize they’re pregnant until after they’ve missed their period. She says, “Women are usually about five or six weeks pregnant when they realize.”
The only exception to the new law is when the mother’s life is in danger. This means that in Texas those that have survived a case of rape or incest are not exempt from this law and can be prosecuted for seeking an abortion. When addressed by a reporter regarding the issue of why a victim of such crimes should endure carrying a pregnancy to full term, Greg Abbott said the state is working to end these crimes from being committed.
“Rape is a crime,” he said, “and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”
In 2018, the total number of sexual assault incidents reported in Texas was 19,816, according to the reports collected by the Texas Department of Safety. The highest percentage, 17.6%, of reported cases were seen when the victim had the relationship of “Acquaintance-Female” to the offender; 11.7% of the cases were “Other Female Family Member.”
The age group with the highest number of victims was the bracket of 10- to 14-year-olds.
Late on the night of September 1st , the Supreme Court, in a controversial 5-4 ruling, denied an emergency request filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners to block the new and extreme abortion ban, which went into effect that same day.
“The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large.” Said Chief Justice Roberts, the main dissenting supreme court justice. “The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the State from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can receive confidential help by calling the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 800-656-4673 or visiting its online hotline.
“For those that think abortion is the easy choice, please know for most that is not the case.
It has been more than 25 years since I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. One that
truly crosses my mind most days. I can still see the check with “abortion” written in the
memo line like it was yesterday.
The decision to have an abortion was one I didn’t feel I had a lot of choices in. The person I thought I had a relationship with very quickly let me know that he was in Texas for his four years at Ft. Hood and he would not be tied to me or anyone else once he completed his service. At 20 this was extremely traumatic.
I have always been a “pleaser” to my parents, my friends, and my employer, so telling my parents was very devastating. Considering the attitude from the father, I reached out to Planned Parenthood. My parents were with me every step of the way, although the fear of their disappointment overwhelmed me.
Planned Parenthood talked to me about my options and regardless of what most think they did not guide me to an abortion. That was my choice. I can still remember the white sterile room and how cold I felt.
The doctors were kind and compassionate and my parents were waiting to take me home after the procedure. I laid in bed and cried that day and I still cry as I write these words. I know looking back the decision was the right one for the time in my life and the circumstances of this pregnancy.
BUT that does not mean it was not a very difficult decision. For the next three years, I challenged life a little and made several poor choices, because I felt so ashamed.
Very frequently I passed a church in Waco that had a lawn full of white crosses, which each represented aborted babies. I would cry most days as I passed.
I struggled with my faith during this period as well. I felt unworthy and ashamed because of the stigma that society places on women that choose to have an abortion. I was a hard worker, self-supporting, and an overall good person, but I felt very judged and like I had to keep this dirty little secret to myself.
At 23, I found myself pregnant, like I should have learned the first time, right?
Apparently, my choice of partners had not improved, however, I was stronger, and I took control of my life. I knew that with this baby my life would be changed, for the better this time. From that day forward, I lived every moment for my child.
An alternative decision never crossed my mind. I was a single mom for 7 years. We had a relationship that was more than I ever could have asked for. In 2000, when my daughter was 8 months old, I met the love of my life. We dated for 7 years…yes 7 years, let’s just say we both had some major trust issues.
We married in 2007 and in 2008 I found out I was pregnant. We were so happy.
Unfortunately, in November of 2008, while at a Christmas music presentation for my beautiful daughter, I had a miscarriage. Immediately I felt like somehow it was retribution for the decision I made so many years ago.
I know in my heart, that is not how GOD works, but it was so painful I had to be mad at someone. So now I not only think about my abortion but also the loss of a baby I so badly wanted. The pain was so great we never tried again. We decided that we had the perfect family.
When I married my husband, I gained a bonus child that was exactly two years older than my daughter. We are not perfect, but I will say that I truly cannot ask for anything more.
I have always been honest with my daughter about my trials and life choices, but until the last week, I had not shared my abortion with my husband. I guess somewhere in my mind, I thought that would make me unworthy of his love. I decided to share the story with him, so I could also share it with you.
I feel this story is so important to share. Abortion is not an easy choice, but no matter what the situation is, it should always be A choice. A choice that yes, should have some medical boundaries for the health and safety of the mother and the baby, but a choice that should not be rushed or even eliminated.
I will never forget the devastation I felt that day, but I will always be grateful that I did have a safe place to go and I was treated with respect and care.”