The atmosphere on May 19th, 2021 was celebratory for some and outrageous for others. Governor Greg Abbot officially signed into law the controversial Texas Senate Bill 8. Effective on September 1st, the bill illegalizes a woman’s right to abortion after the first 6-weeks of her pregnancy. TX SB8, or the Texas Heartbeat Act, is the first major sway towards pro-life ideals since the monumental Roe v. Wade case. The Supreme Court had set a legal precedent when it protected a pregnant woman’s right to abortion. It is because of this landmark trial that no state in the US can ban the procedure. But legislators are working to change that. So why is this loss for the freedom of women so devastating, and what does the passing of TX SB8 bode for other states and our future?
The enactment of the Heartbeat Act is no blip in the overwhelmingly progressive social growth of the past century. The political climate is a neon indicator of a a more conservative trend toward abortion. It’s in recent years that the frayed edges of American politics have become more apparent. In the struggle of ideologies, the conservatives have begun their push against the overwhelming tide of progressiveness in the past half-century. They’ve decided to cling on tightly to traditionalist ideals, including pro-life. The dominos are stacked and the first tile has fallen. What waits at the end is the ideals that will prevail for the majority of our lifetime. Texas is the first, but other southern states are not far behind. Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma has signed a ban on abortion except in life-threatening situations that comes into effect in November (Batha). To anticipate legal barriers, he simultaneously signed a bill shortening the abortion period to six weeks (Batha). Montana is expected to start restricting access to abortion centres in October and ban the procedure post 20 weeks (Batha). In the future, we may remember 2021 as the year Roe v. Wade crumbles and gives way to a new ideological period.
As a 16-year-old girl who imagines her future in the USA, the uncertainty puts me on edge. Morally, I want to have guaranteed control of my own body, a freedom that is central to the doctrines of America. Legally, I believe everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, as the First Amendment states. If a Christian woman wants to keep her embryo because she thinks that the life inside her is precious, awesome. If an atheist wants to get an abortion because she was raped and doesn’t want to give up years of her life to care for an infant, spectacular. But this decision should not be locked away by a multicultural western liberal democracy. Melissa Upreti, Chair of the UN Working Group on Discrimination against women and girls, says “The law and the way it came about – through the refusal of the US Supreme Court to block it based on existing legal precedent – has not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward.” (Pilkington)
The gravity of the Texas abortion law is huge and has serious implications for the future of America. But frankly, we can only sit tight and watch the events unfold. The Biden administration was, expectedly, unsuccessful in shooting down the policy. Even if it was successful, it would most likely draw the fiery rage of Republicans against the president they hate so much. All we can do is anticipate the spectacle that will be the case brought up to the Supreme Court, forcing another landmark decision that will set the course for the next 50 years. But for now, the train is moving, and we pray that the bridge of righteousness and law holds firm against the raging wrath of politics.