Inhumane Texas abortion ban exploits the vulnerable

Mia C. Vu

The Justice Department’s attempt to block the Texas abortion ban was supposed to buy Americans and advocates from both sides more time to engage in honest, open-minded debate on the matter. But after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’s ruling on Oct. 8, the flawed and inhumane law was reinstated again, putting the most vulnerable population such as women, teens and children into a human rights crisis.

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey established that women have a constitutional right to abortion and that a state regulation cannot impose an “undue burden” on women’s ability to get an abortion before fetal viability (22-24 weeks). 

What Texas passed was, according to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “a flagrantly unconstitutional law.” Texas lawmakers designed the law to be enforced by private citizens to evade court action, avoid responsibility for their law. If a state is not responsible for the people and cannot be held accountable, it is not a democracy.

This particular abortion law can be considered a discriminatory tool against women. First, banning abortions as early as six weeks, well before many women know they are pregnant, denies women’s bodily-autonomy and demonstrates disturbing ignorance regarding reproductive health. Irregular periodic cycle is common with various causes like hormonal changes, stress, medicines or eating disorders. In this sense, teens will be the first group made vulnerable under the law. Not only could it take several years for their cycles to settle into a recognizable pattern, but a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2019 found that one out of five girls ages twelve to seventeen had experienced major depression.

The law offers $10,000 for private citizens to sue anyone giving assistance on abortions, such as abortion providers or an Uber driver taking her to the clinic. This bounty law discourages, if not isolates, women from getting medical and social support they need during stressful pregnancy. The Texas government has driven women out of state to search for safe abortion while traveling is dangerous for any pregnant women’s health and inaccessible for economically disadvantaged people. 

Women seeking abortion now face two choices: asking for others’ help and risk everyone being hunted down, or struggling alone. This situation is even more tragic to teenagers as they often find it hard to even tell their parents about pregnancy. The trauma of being hounded and unintended pregnancy stress will possibly lead to destructive behaviors and affect both maternal and child health outcomes. 

It is evident that Texas fails to protect whom they have claimed to be protecting – our young. According to the Federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), as of 2017, negligence took up 91 percent of the foster care entry reasons, while parental substance abuse was a reason in 68 percent of the cases in Texas. Yet, more children in the future will be at risk of unfit parenting and violence as the strict bounty abortion law forces women, including those unwilling and unsuitable into parenthood. 

On the other hand, there is no question that the Texas government is unable to ensure the well-being of disadvantaged babies and children. The fact is, the state’s foster care system has been in a capacity crisis with a surging number of foster children without placement. Last April, 282 children spent at least two consecutive nights without placement as foster care facilities failed to provide shelters, according to the Dallas Morning News

In other words, Texas officials completely left children’s rights and quality of life out of the equation, refusing to take legal actions to improve aids for children and foster care systems but seizing control over women’s bodies. Thus, Texas governor Greg Abbott’s words “to protect every child with a heartbeat” sounds auspicious yet frankly hypocritical. 

The Texas Heartbeat Act is clearly not grounded, not about life nor women but about exerting control of reproductive rights and laying the first step to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is terrifying to think that this law would make way to other states and take away the choice of men and women in parenthood.

A previous version of this article stated that women can be sued under the Texas ban. A correction was made on Oct. 17  at 10:35 p.m. to specify that the ban currently only allows bounty hunters to sue the people who assist in an abortion.