In Texas, those who report abortion can earn 10,000

The men who didn’t love women in a long time are not fiction, but they continue to write the story out of horror. This time, who stars in a sinister chapter of the American narrative is the governor of Texas, Greg Abbot. After making headlines for assuming the continuation of the wall idealized by Donald Trump, the Republican returns to the news for basically preventing women’s access to abortion procedures – a right guaranteed by law.

Since 1973, when the Roe v. Wade case was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, the right to safe and legal abortion has been valid throughout the country. The problem is, as Sean Mehl, associate director of clinical services at the women’s reproductive law organization explains. Whole Woman’s Health, this is the basis and not the limit of the rule.

“States do not have the autonomy to nullify Roe x Wade, but they can make their understanding more flexible and impose new restrictions”, Mehl tells the Brazil in fact.

And that’s what Abbott did – he built another wall, but instead of immigrants, he wants to surround women and their rights. The ultra-conservative politician approved a bill entitled “Heart Beat Law” (heartbeat bill, in English), which prohibits access to any abortive process from the moment a cardiac movement in the fetus is identified. Researchers argue that this nomenclature is too vague and there are those who understand that the heartbeat can be detected in the first six weeks of pregnancy.

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“It puts us in scientific and philosophical debates, and I could make a series of arguments that show that what we see or hear in the first six weeks is not necessarily the fetal heartbeat, but I find all of this a distraction, because we took it away the focus of the patient, of the woman”, defends Mehl.

According to data from Whole Woman’s Health, about 90% of abortion procedures performed in Texas take place after the first six weeks of pregnancy because most women do not even know they are pregnant before that.

“That’s why I think it’s important for us to stop making up and call this law by its correct name: abortion ban,” says Mehl. “What Texas is doing is banning women’s access to that right.”

Scheduled to take effect from September 1, the law is expected to be felt most by black women, low-income people, young people and those living in rural areas, because of the significant obstacles they already face in accessing abortion.

Map of abortion in Latin America. Data are from June 2020. Fernando Bertolo/ Brasil de Fato

“Those who can afford it will have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get to another state and find the treatment that, theoretically, is their right,” continues Mehl.

The Texas governor defended his measures under religious precepts. “Our creator gave us the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” he said before signing the bill.

Under similar, if not identical, justifications, another 14 states also adopt rules that virtually prohibit abortion. In addition to the area under Abbott’s jurisdiction, the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina and Tennessee also impose a series of obstacles that make abortion is virtually impossible.

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The new Texan rule, however, draws attention for a peculiarity: it encourages and even rewards those who report women or doctors involved in abortion procedures. This means that any citizen who sues a person for violations of this new abortion law can receive about $10,000.

“This will place a weight and a huge trauma on patients, who may be insecure when seeking advice or confidence even from people close and friends”, predicts the director of the Whole Woman’s Health. “It blows up the entire support system available to women because anyone who doesn’t agree with their decision can file a lawsuit against the patient or against the professionals working on her behalf.”

Supreme Court must overturn Texas legislation, says professor

Reproductive-law attorney and professor at Florida State University, Mary Ziegler, reckons Texas law should be repealed “by next summer or shortly thereafter” by the Supreme Court, but could spur similar actions by other conservative governments.

“We will probably see conservative states, even those that are served by more liberal state courts, taking similar actions because when we challenge the constitutionality of the law, in the United States, we are taken to the Supreme Court – and that’s what they want, to bring this debate to the court. maximum, where there is the chance and probability of nullification of the law”, Ziegler predicts to the Brazil in fact.

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A researcher in the area, the professor emphasizes, however, that this does not necessarily reflect public opinion, as a large part of the local population is in favor of the cause. “In the end, what is clear is the irony of status quo American, determined by conflicting postures,” says Ziegler. “We say ‘yes, abortion is a right,’ but we don’t like it; we don’t want to ban it either, but we want to regulate it.”

The repercussion of Texas legislation could serve as ammunition for the re-election of Greg Abbott, who has already made clear his intention to run for another term, and does not rule out the possibility of being the Republican nominee to the White House in 2024. The “Law of the Heartbeat” would therefore be his credential as the ultra-conservative figure running for president.

Edition: Arturo Hartmann

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