The “Texas Heartbeat Act,” (also referred to as SB 8) which was passed on May 19 and went into effect Sept. 1, has once again prompted heated debate across the country about reproductive rights. The act is one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation as it bans the procedure at “the first heartbeat” or about six weeks after conception.
On Sept. 9, the US Justice Department sued Texas over the law on the grounds that the law was constructed explicitly to be difficult to challenge in court. As of Oct. 6, at least one U.S. judge has ruled to block the enforcement of the law, according to NPR.
This ruling does not mean that SB 8 will be overturned. While abortion rights are still protected constitutionally under the Roe v. Wade decision, the issue remains widely debated.
Sharon Gray: Yes, life begins at conception
As one who believes human life begins at conception, I’m heartened by Kristi Noem’s efforts to make South Dakota’s abortion laws some of the most restrictive in the country. While I don’t agree with her on many issues, I am aligned with her on this one.
South Dakota has historically been one of the most pro-life, anti-abortion states in the Union.
Currently, South Dakota has only one clinic that performs abortions. In 2006, South Dakota citizens put Referendum 6 (a.k.a. The South Dakota Abortion Ban Referendum) on the ballot. It failed to pass but mustered a significant 44.43% of the vote.
In the 15 years since then, states have continued to pass laws attempting to force a reversal of Roe v Wade, the 1973 7-to-2 Supreme Court decision making abortion legal in all 50 states.
Far from settled law, the question of the right to life in the womb continues to fuel passions on both sides. With the most conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court in decades, pro-choice and pro-life activists alike agree that Roe v. Wade is poised to be overturned.
Such a reversal would revert oversight of abortion back to the states, allowing states like South Dakota to make abortion completely illegal and other states, like New York and California, to make abortion freely available throughout a person’s pregnancy if they choose.
Noem’s efforts to protect the unborn include preventing Down’s syndrome from being used as a reason for aborting and issuing an executive order restricting access to abortion-inducing drugs without an in-person physical consultation with a doctor.
With the “Texas Heartbeat Act” banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (usually around six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant), it’s not surprising that Noem is seeking to make sure South Dakota laws are at least as strong as those in Texas.
Those of us fighting against legalized abortion deeply believe that the human person is endowed with an inalienable right to life, even when that right requires acquiescence by another party (the mother).
Historically, any time one group of humans has refused to acknowledge another group of humans as “persons,” it has been to justify doing them harm.
Think of the dark periods of genocide and enslavement. I do not make those comparisons lightly. I make them because the definition of personhood is the very crux of the issue: if one believes that the fetus is a human person, one cannot stand idly by and have no opinion on abortion. One must oppose abortion, the intentional killing of that human being.
The only thing separating each of us from the fetus we were years ago is age and development. We are the same human person we were then.
Often, those who oppose abortion are accused of being insensitive to women facing unintended pregnancies. Far from it: we see abortion as an affront to women, as evidence that our culture has failed to provide necessary support for women and for their young.
We realize that it is a false dichotomy to view the rights of women as competing against the rights of their young. Instead, we strive for a society in which women and their young have the support they need (True, Medicaid expansion would be a good start. I’m writing my letters! I hope you are, too).
Dawn Geertsema: No, it’s an invasion of privacy
Regulating abortion and reproductive rights is a violation of the privacy that every U.S. citizen is entitled to through the Due Process Clause in the 14th Amendment. Given that regulating these rights is decidedly unconstitutional, South Dakota does not have the right to have more restrictive abortion laws.
The Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade (1973) case set a precedent when the court ruled that a woman’s right to consider abortion was in fact protected privacy.
The court concluded only a woman and her attending physician could make abortion decisions within the first trimester. The second trimester is more malleable to state action, and the third even more so. All of these rulings are also subject to exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger.
In September 2021, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 8, making abortions illegal after a heartbeat can be heard and deeming every Texas citizen a deputy responsible for reporting and battling in civil suits.
And as Katie Benner and Sabrina Tavernise acknowledged in their Oct. 4 update on the law, one of the big concerns that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has with this abortion ban is that if a state can surpress one constituional right, it could potentially surpress others.
“No matter their stand on abortion, Americans should fear that the Texas law could become a model to restrict other constitutionally protected rights,” wrote Benner and Tavernise, paraphrasing Garland’s words.
At the beginning of this year, the Texas Tribune reported that this legislative body is 61% white while the state’s population is only 41% white. And only 27% of them are female.
To put it bluntly, white men in Texas are making decisions about reproductive rights that do not apply to them. This is not okay.
Take into consideration the research of Margaret Wurth, a senior researcher in the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, who explored the danger of abortion restrictions increasing maternal death in countries heavily armed with such restrictions like Brazil, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
“When abortion is heavily restricted or banned, women from poor, rural and marginalized communities suffer most, as they may not be able to afford to travel to places where abortion is legal, or pay what it costs,” Wurth said.
This increase is spearheaded by attempts to find abortion practices where safe outlets aren’t available. And because many of these women come from such financially strapped communities, they often cannot afford to travel to a place where an abortion is legal and safe.
“Unplanned pregnancies will still happen, as they always do, and women will still need abortions,” she said, citing research from around the world. “But these will happen behind closed doors, and more women and girls will be injured or die.”
Wurth continues, “In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that hundreds of women die in the United States each year from preventable complications related to pregnancy. Preventable maternal deaths will only increase if access to abortion is further restricted.”
Please arm yourselves with scholarly, researched information before spewing misinformation to the masses. And yes, you can disagree with abortion, but you cannot force your opinions onto others to change their lives. That’s not your place.
To inform yourself further on the Texas abortion law from a licensed, board-certified OB GYN from Texas, I recommend checking out Youtuber Mama Doctor Jones’s breakdown of what is scientifically and inhumanely concerning about the Texas abortion ban.
Also, try to mind people’s constitutionally protected privacy.
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