Why Texas’s Abortion Law Goes Too Far
As Democrats grapple with increasingly stringent opposition in traditionally conservative states, Texas just passed its most restrictive abortion law, restricting procedures to pregnancies without a fetal heartbeat.
According to the National Institutes of Health, women, on average, find out about their pregnancies in between the fifth and sixth weeks of gestation. That means that many, and possibly even most, women would not know about their pregnancies by the deadline (presence of a fetal heartbeat) set by the Texas government. In other words, while the legal right to abortions is still guaranteed, Texas has passed an effective ban on abortions, forcing women to resort to extreme measures to terminate their pregnancies.
The Supreme Court, even with John Roberts voting for the affirmative, failed to strike down the law, destroying decades of legal precedent since Roe v. Wade. Notably, in Roe and other Supreme Court rulings involving abortion, decisions have ruled that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability, which typically happens at around 24 weeks. Texas’s law, a drastic departure from this legal code, puts that precedent right in the garbage. While it doesn’t spell the end to the legal battle over the law, it does mean that it will be a significant period of time before the law is officially broached upon in court.
What’s the Public’s Opinion?
The problem with the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” classification system is that there’s a large spectrum of opinions on abortion across the country. According to one recent Gallup poll, the vast majority of Americans do not support overturning Roe v. Wade, but many still support a number of restrictions on abortion.
Most European Union countries, most notably those in the G7, have universal accessibility to abortions prior to 12 weeks. Justin Trudeau, in recent years, has criticized many states for instating limits on the practice. That hasn’t stopped any further developments, however.
Over the past decade, hundreds of clinics have closed, and women have found it harder and harder to find doctors to perform abortions in large swaths of the country, most predominantly in the Midwest and South. However, while many restrictions have been passed over the last decade, what makes this restriction so infuriating to pro-choice activists is that it focuses on the first trimester of pregnancy, the period during which most women receive abortions. Furthermore, the largest percent of adults approving of abortions during the first three months, with greater than sixty percent supporting it. Because many laws have not gone as far as to effectively ban the practice, it is likely that this will cause a larger movement to stir.
What Congress Can Do
While Democrats did filibuster a bill in 2018 to ban abortions after twenty weeks, it remains unclear whether they can sustain a majority to enshrine the right to abortions in law. To begin, they’d have to overcome a sixty-vote filibuster, in addition to the two pro-life Democrats, Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). While Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) have all expressed pro-choice sentiments in the past, their Republican affiliations would likely play a determining role in their choice to vote on a hypothetical abortion bill. In any case, any hope of passing such legislation is virtually nonexistent.
The other choice for Democrats, widely supported by the progressive wing of the party, is to pack the Supreme Court. One of the most important reasons why the request to freeze this Texas law was denied was the presence of Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s controversial appointment during his last year in office. John Roberts, often the decider on controversial cases, chose to vote in favor of the request, but the conservative supermajority on the court stopped his vote from having any effect. It’s why Democrats believe that packing the court with liberal justices would make decisions like these nonexistent.
Now, however, it seems as though the country will see what happens when abortion is banned to nearly all women in the United States’ second most populated state. Potentially, Americans’ views on when abortion should be legal could get a lot clearer.