The Heartbeat Bill violates women’s right to their body


Lillian Hoover

Sept. 1 marked the implementation of Senate Bill 8, more commonly known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” causing an uproar of commotion around Texas.

Lillian Hoover and Emily Loewe

Sept. 1 marked the implementation of Senate Bill 8, more commonly known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” causing an uproar of commotion around Texas. This bill has put a ban on any abortion performed after six weeks of pregnancy, around the time when the fetal heartbeat can be detected. This will not only ban most abortions, but will also take away a woman’s right to choose.

I believe that this bill should have never been put into action as it will create even more hardships for women who are already in a difficult situation. For the vast majority of women, six weeks does not allow enough time to get an abortion as most women don’t even know they are pregnant at that stage. The challenge is even more compounded for pregnant minors who choose to seek an abortion. It is practically impossible to obtain abortion care due to the additional legal hurdles to obtain a judicial bypass when parent consent cannot be obtained. This law is making what is already an incredibly difficult choice for a woman even more challenging, economically, logistically and emotionally.

The “Heartbeat Bill” does not include any exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Instead, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that the state will work to ‘eliminate’ rape. According to the Texas Department of Safety, there were over 14,000 reported cases of rape in Texas as of 2019. And the state of Texas has just passed a law making it possible for a rapist to sue a doctor who provides abortion care to their victim.

As of 2019, there were more than seven million women of reproductive age in the state of Texas. If most abortion care in the state is eliminated, it would result in an average increase of the one way driving distance to obtain an abortion from 17 to 247 miles. This fourteen-fold increase in mileage would increase the need for an overnight stay and add the cost of a hotel room. The added distance would also make it harder to find a person to accompany them, due to the additional travel time required. If a woman must travel to a neighboring state to seek an abortion, they may be required to make multiple visits, as is the case for Louisiana.

In addition, this is a dangerous law which allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman seek an abortion. The monetary damages sought in such cases will be $10,000 or more. This law will force doctors and providers of abortions to spend countless hours and dollars defending themselves in court. The very nature of this law is a dangerous precedent to set as it may encourage other states to create similar types of legislation. Within Texas, lawsuits will now tie up anyone who offers support to women who obtain abortion care. Many organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, are now in court attempting to challenge this new law.

Senate Bill 8 stands in defiance of Roe v. Wade. This U.S. Supreme Court decision (7-2) protects a woman’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions. At the time of the lawsuit, abortion had been banned in Texas with few exceptions. In Roe v. Wade the court ruled that these abortion laws violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. The Court also held that this right must be balanced against the state’s interest to protect the health of the mother and the “potentiality of human life.” The court tied the state regulation of abortion to the three trimesters of pregnancy, each with its own qualifications. During the first trimester, states cannot prohibit abortions at all.

To combat this bill, we need to eliminate it and prevent similar laws in other states. Our U.S. Congress needs to pass a federal reproductive rights bill. Representative Judy Chu (CA) introduced The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021. This bill would guarantee a women’s legal right to an abortion. Its passage in the House is considered likely, but not the Senate. The abortion issue should not be left up to the courts, and it should not be left to 50 individual states to decide their own rules.

I cannot stress this enough: we must allow women to obtain an abortion no matter the situation that they are in. Choice is a legal right that everyone should have, especially when it comes to someone’s own body and life. Taking this choice away undoes the progress that we made in the 70’s with Roe v. Wade. Our legislative branch needs to step in and protect a woman’s right to choose.