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Texas’ Heartbeat Act, the slaughter of basic democratic rights?

The Texas Heartbeat Act, which was passed as a law in May 2021, has opened a new frontier for battles over abortion restrictions in the US. The bill is set to be in effect from September 2021 and has already witnessed a federal lawsuit against it.

The Texas Heartbeat Act or Senate Bill 8 is set to be enacted from 1st September 2021 and applies to anyone connected to abortion. This includes anyone who, according to the language of the law, “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.” The legislation also allows for a $10,000 fine to be brought against those providing abortions after the detection of a “fetal heartbeat.” The lawsuit has been filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), Planned Parenthood, and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of several other groups. With the government bringing the abortion ban law into action there is a high possibility the clock will turn back. This will open the door to unsafe back-alley abortions.

Texas joined 13 other states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho, Ohio, and Tennessee, where "fetal heartbeat" abortion bans have been signed into law. The establishment of legal abortion in Texas, under the 14th amendment, dates back to 1973, with the landmark Roe v. Wade's case. Before this federal case, women used to go through highly dangerous operations, which often resulted in injuries causing complications in pregnancies in the future and could result in death.

The anti-abortion law was signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott on May 19, the same day the state executed Quintin Jones. Jones was convicted in 2001, for the murder of his great-aunt, Berthena Bryant. Even though, Bryant’s sole surviving siblings forgave Jones in a clemency position, asking the government to commute his sentence, the board ignored these appeals, leading to his execution on the same day the state declared the abortions-ban law. This is a living example of how the United States government is haunting the basic democratic rights of its citizens. Claiming Texas' latest antiabortion law as “barbaric”, the president of the CRR, Nancy Northup, who is also one of the plaintiffs in the case, denounced the law for putting a “bounty on the head of any person or entity who so much as gives a patient money for an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant.”

The plaintiffs in the current federal case have been affiliated with the Democratic Party, which has made various claims to support abortion rights. But it is important to note, that the Democratic Party has assisted in the attacks on abortion rights, with the Obama administration signing an executive order in 2010 which upholds several restrictions on the legal right to an abortion. This had been done by enforcing the Hyde Amendment, a provision that blocks federal funding for abortion, except in the case of incest or rape, or if the women's life is at risk. Following the passage of this amendment, the first death due to an Illegal abortion occurred in Texas, in 1977, that of Rosie Jimenez, 27. For the past four decades, the amendment continues to be operated by the key sections of the Democratic Party.

In June 2021, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin responded to the reports that the Biden administration will rescind the Hyde Amendment, by vowing that he will “in every possible way”, support the amendment. Moreover, the speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly ruled out her support toward abortion rights. On the other hand, the Democrats haven't shown any significant movement to stop the assaults on abortion. It is believed that they won’t carry out any basic movement to defend this basic human right as it could stand to mobilize the working class and quickly spiral out of the Democrats’ control, threatening the entire capitalist system. The Democratic Party is believed to be a part of the upper-middle class and has no intention of defending the rights of the working class. Since the women in the ruling class will never have a problem in affording birth control or obtaining an abortion, it is only the working class, or particularly, the women of the working class whose abortion rights are being exploited.

The draconian anti-abortion bill is a threat to many women since it has no exceptions for instances of rape or incest. Instead, it claims that "public and private agencies provide emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest." Moreover, to justify, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes stated, “Let’s harshly punish the rapist, but we don’t, we don’t punish the unborn child." This implies, if someone gets raped in Texas, she will be forced to have the rapist's child under threat from the state. This might increase the practice of unsafe abortions, which will threaten a women's life.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of death in pregnancy in the world. They account for between 4.7 and 13.2 percent of maternal deaths every year. It also noted that barriers to safe abortions for women, including adolescents, worldwide include:

  • Restrictive laws

  • Poor availability of services

  • High cost

  • Stigma

  • The conscientious objection of healthcare providers and

  • Unnecessary requirements, such as mandatory waiting periods, mandatory counseling, provision of misleading information, third-party authorization, and medically unnecessary tests that delay care.

The republican anti-abortion law seems to check off every item mentioned in the WHO’s list. For instance: the number of active abortion clinics in Texas has decreased from 40 in 2013 to just 22 in 2019. Most of these clinics are located in large cities, meaning that women from rural areas have no access to abortion services apart from traveling miles to get treated.

To conclude, it can be said, Texas's abortion ban law has many loopholes. With the bill going into effect in the coming months, it is bound to open a pandora’s box of the battle between the government and the civilians. The defense of basic democratic rights is a struggle to put an end to capitalism and establish socialism. This requires the immense support of everyone who is against it, especially the working people and the youth.


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