The Texas Heartbeat Bill, now the strictest abortion law in the country, shows grey areas of politics mixing with religion in its severe abortion restriction that challenges the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
In the 1973 landmark case, the Supreme Court decided a woman’s right to abortion was constitutionally protected prior to the viability of the fetus.
Heidi Girling, a pregnancy health counselor with CSULB, said a viable pregnancy is when the fetus can survive outside the womb of the mother.
“Mind you, every state has a different definition,” Girling said. “In California it’s 22 to 24 weeks.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that a fetus delivered before 23 weeks of gestation only has a 5% to 6% chance of survival. The new Texas abortion law bans any abortion after a fatal heart beat is detected, which is around the sixth week of pregnancy.
A six-week-old embryo can not survive outside the womb.
Can a state law ban an abortion by the sixth week of pregnancy and remain constitutional under the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade?
“The problem that we are seeing is that there are many politicians who have brought their church into politics,” Girling said.
The first amendment in the Bill of Rights says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This amendment, otherwise known as the establishment clause, is intended to separate the church from state.
Girling said the discussion to determine when life begins has become a confused area of politics and religion, especially in Republican-dominated states such as Texas.
Most women are not aware that they are pregnant until around their fifth or sixth week, according to a survey by the Maternal and Child Health Journal.
Women from a lower socio-economic status could be harder impacted by this policy if they are forced to have a child they weren’t financially prepared for. Those with lower incomes may not be able to afford to travel outside of Texas to an abortion clinic.
“It puts them in a situation where they may never get out of poverty,” Girling said.
The Texas Heartbeat Bill does not exempt cases of rape or incest. Michelle Xai, a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Revolution Club, said the conditions were too harsh.
“You’re forced to carry out that pregnancy to term,” Xai said. “You’re tied to this human you never even planned. This is slavery.”
Roe v. Wade was a landmark case because the Supreme Court decided a woman’s private right to terminate her pregnancy was constitutionally protected, without excessive government interference.
Other states, such as Florida, are getting set to follow Texas’ lead in their own abortion policies. Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby proposed a Florida Heartbeat Bill that may appear on the Florida 2022 ballot with similar abortion restrictions as Texas, according to BallotPedia.
With the possibility of further abortion restrictions rising in several states, there needs to be an increase in pregnancy prevention access.
Girling suggested this starts with comprehensive sex education, from teaching self-values in kindergarten to showing teens on how to prevent pregnancy and access to medical care.