THE Texan abortion law enacted in May, and given tacit consent by the US Supreme Court, is the most aggressive anti-abortion law to take effect in the US since 1973.
Senate Bill 8 allows private citizens from any state to sue anyone who assists women in obtaining abortions past the 6 week point of a pregnancy.
The bill takes aim at the landmark decision, which ruled that women have a constitutional right to a termination until the fetus becomes viable – usually around 22/24 weeks. And with several other states currently exploring similar legislation, Roe looks increasingly vulnerable.
But the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on its constitutionality, leading some to question its significance – is this just one decision in one state?
“I’d say they’re being very naive”, Texas State Senator Carol Alvarado told Redaction Report.
“It’s the same people that said ‘Don’t worry, the courts are not going to change that quickly, Roe v Wade has been around for a long time it will stay intact’, and look what happened.
“Roe v Wade will basically be no more in Texas, they are chipping away at women’s reproductive freedoms. That’s setting us back decades, generations.”
This challenge to the landmark decision looks to be the start of a national trend, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis having announced he is considering similar legislation, and many others expected to follow suit.
The next abortion case likely to be heard by the Supreme Court is a Mississippi law which bans procedures after 15 weeks, and unlike in Texas, this decision could overrule Roe.
The current precedence is Planned Parenthood v Casey, which grants women have the choice until viability – Dobbs asks the court to throw that out. And if it does, then Roe is effectively defunct.
As shocking as this is, it was entirely foreseeable, Alvarado explains: “For many of us who are very supportive of women’s rights, we warned people that this could happen if Trump won.
“We knew he would appoint justices that would not advocate for women, and here we see the consequences.”
The former President appointed three justices in his term – Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch. The Trump Trio wouldn’t even need the unpredictable Justice Roberts in the Mississippi case – they have Thomas and Alito. Dobbs will be decided by June 2022, but in the meantime the Democrats will mount legal and legislative action.
Kamala Harris called on Thursday for Roe v Wade to be codified into law, and Nancy Pelosi announced last week that the House will hold a vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), which would enshrine the right to an abortion.
But the chances of the bill getting through both houses are slim, specifically in the Senate, where it would encounter the filibuster.
Democrats need GOP votes, and this isn’t a bill that could circumvent that fact with budget reconciliation. The Democrats also need to pick up seats in 2022, but this is unlikely given that the president’s party usually performs badly in the congressional midterms.
And then there is the US Department of Justice, which is pursuing legal action. Merrick Garland announced on Thursday that they are suing the State of Texas over Senate Bill 8.
If the Court does overrule Roe or Casey (a federal decision), this doesnt mean that abortions would be banned nationwide. The matter would go back to the jurisdcition of the states, and 14 states have already passed pro-choice law – including California and New York.
Conversely, 22 states have introduced laws which will explicitly ban, or significantly curtail access.
But this all depends on who Americans vote into office. Given that there has, for many years, been a consistent majority in favor of abortion access, the writing is not on the wall – yet.
“I hope it’s a wake up call to people,” says Alvarado. “It’s happening pretty quickly, and I’m hoping that all of these actions will motivate not just women, but everyone, to participate more in the political process, and to make decisions based on what has happened.”
A cornerstone of US law hangs in the balance, and the outcome of the 2022 midterms will be instrumental in determining its fate. In order to secure the future of Roe v Wade, Democrats must pick up seats – history tells us they won’t.
Alvarado is the State Senator for Texas’ 6th District, which includes southwest Houston, and has advocated there for women’s rights, passing legislation to support victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Featured Image: Texas Senate
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