Bilinovich: The Texas anti-abortion law is nothing to celebrate

Beau Bilinovich, Development Editor

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court declared abortion legal across the United States in the monumental case of Roe V. Wade. Ever since that seminal court case, the Supreme Court has ruled, time and time again, that states could not violate a women’s right to get an abortion. Despite these rulings, countless state legislatures have attempted, and still are attempting, to overturn the longstanding precedent—and recently, Texas has found success.

Texas Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8) bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, making no exceptions for instances of rape or incest. Many women who would seek an abortion won’t even know they are pregnant this early. In fact, 85 to 90% of abortion procedures in Texas occur after six weeks of gestation, making this new law nothing short of a complete ban on abortion in Texas.

But how could a law which so obviously violates Supreme Court precedent be allowed to pass? The reasons are twofold.

First, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court denied injunctive relief to abortion providers to temporarily block the law from taking effect. This means that until a proper case is heard by the Supreme Court, S.B. 8 will remain effective. It should be noted that denial of the injunction is not a ruling on the law’s constitutionality, or lack thereof, as stated in the majority opinion of the decision. Litigation can, and likely will, be filed. But it will take time.

Second, Texas legislators have found a dangerous yet practical loophole to any potential challenges to anti-abortion laws.

Typically, abortion bills are enforced by the government. In the case of S.B. 8, however, the responsibility of enforcement is conferred to any citizen by granting them the ability to sue any individual who performs or aids someone seeking an abortion past six weeks. And the prosecution will be awarded $10,000, paid by the defendant, if the lawsuit is successful. Since no government official is entrusted with enforcement, there is greater difficulty in challenging the law in court.

Let’s be clear: These recent actions are a threat to reproductive rights, bodily autonomy and any sense of privacy we once had. But this law is more than simply an attack on abortion rights; it is also an attack on the foundations of government.

The entire point of a lawsuit is to hold someone personally accountable for harm or injury you suffered because of their actions. That is why, in order to sue someone, you need to prove that you have actually suffered some sort of harm, which is referred to as standing to sue.

The Texas law demolishes the pillars of this court process.

What harm do people suffer when a person they don’t know decides to get an abortion? How does that decision affect anyone else? The truth is that the only person an abortion affects is the person seeking the abortion, no one else—not a neighbor, a boss or a coworker.

Pro-life activists are celebrating an abjectly horrifying law for a cause that they believe is venerable and sincere. In that case, venerable apparently means encouraging completely emotionless, morally outraged individuals to act as bounty hunters and track down those they believe are helping a woman get an abortion. And at the end of it all, they receive a nice cash prize, all the while they have just trampled on numerous rights and the principles of civil courts.

This law is nothing to celebrate. We should not inspire people to live out their corrupted fantasy of being some sort of moral hero. After nearly two years of trying to get people to come together and help each other amidst a deadly virus, this law encourages people to go after each other—it’s a slap in the face.

Believe what you want about abortion; that is your right, and you are free to believe it. But unless you are the one seeking an abortion, you should have no power to make that decision for anyone else. You are not affected by that decision. Nothing will change that basic fact.

In the meantime, if we actually were serious about reducing abortion, there are some effective solutions. We could improve the way sex education is taught, as abstinence-only education has proven ineffective at lowering pregnancy rates among teens. We could provide free contraceptives, shown in a Washington University study, to reduce abortion rates by 62 to 78 percent. Or we could even help those children who are already born by fixing the broken foster care system, which houses nearly 437,000 children who don’t have a permanent family.

Whatever the case may be, the Texas anti-abortion law does not help anyone. Its purpose is to be destructive. Taking a stand for what is morally right does not mean supporting a law that is merely an attack. In this case, the morally right thing is opposing this law and others like it, and instead of taking one great leap backward, we need to move forward with genuine solutions to reduce abortion rates. That is how we make progress.