The Texas abortion ban is a devious bill with destructive ends

Texas lawmakers may have just succeeded in demolishing abortion rights in the state. On Sept. 1, Senate Bill (SB) 8 went into effect, functionally outlawing abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks after conception. 

The passing of SB 8 is reprehensible, concerning and could set a dangerous precedent. As a bold-faced abortion ban, the law deserves condemnation, and the brazen defiance of the Supreme Court rulings in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood displayed by Texas lawmakers in the creation of this law is worrying. If SB 8 survives the hailstorm of lawsuits being thrown at it, the mechanism it uses to achieve its goals could be used to erode other rights.

While there is no current agreement on if abortion should be legal in America, the majority by a non-insignificant margin supports the right to choose. According to the Pew Research Center, around 60 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances. There is no consensus on whether a fetus should even be considered a person for moral reasons, at what point in development a fetus gains the right to life, or whether, if granted the right to life, that right overrides the right to bodily autonomy.

My perspective is that the right to life does not create an obligation to support life. Even if fetuses have the right to live, the government should not force people to carry a fetus to term if they do not want to. Morality influences legislation all the time, but in those cases, there is some common moral perspective. The issue, then, is more of if the government should get involved and how.

According to the text of the bill itself on, legislative justifications within SB 8 for banning abortions after a heartbeat is detected were that “fetal heartbeat has become a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth” and that “Texas has compelling interests from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting… the life of the unborn child.”

However, these justifications assume that a fetus’s right to birth should take precedence over the rights of the person carrying the fetus.

Texas is choosing the side in this heated moral debate that forces choice onto people. A pro-choice government still allows people to choose not to get abortions if they are pro-life, but adopting pro-life policies is coercive to pro-choice people seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The willingness of Texas Republicans to ban abortions after the detection of a heartbeat in open defiance of the precedent of Roe v. Wade is cause for concern.

After the Casey ruling, the United States had reached a sort of working compromise. Abortions would be legal up to at least 20 weeks or around viability, and states could institute some restrictions as long as they abided by the undue burden standard of Casey. The Texas abortion ban clearly violates this ruling, and the bravado with which Texas lawmakers embarked on this project is distressing.

The third cause for concern is more technical—the mechanism Texas used to ban abortions. Texas does not punish those performing abortions with jail time. However, SB 8 allows anyone to sue anyone else who helps or intends to help someone get an abortion, or anyone who performs an abortion in the state. Technically, it doesn’t criminalize abortions, but functionally it does.

This lawsuit workaround is unique, and courts are struggling to deal with it. While it was blocked by a district court judge in Texas, it was later reinstated by a different judge. The Biden administration is attempting to get the law thrown out, but it’s unclear if, in the event of a Supreme court ruling, SB 8 will be done away with.

This law is clearly reprehensible, and we should all be highly concerned about the willingness of Texas Republicans to gut established and essential rights in open defiance of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, we should worry about the possibility that their expanded standing loophole could be used to further erode the right to choose  across the nation.