Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed into law one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country, prohibiting abortions starting from six weeks after a woman’s missed period. The bill also incentivizes any Texan to sue anyone who provides an abortion or helps a woman get an abortion after that point for up to $10,000.
Texas already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, particularly high among Black women.
Texas already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, particularly among Black women, and that’s been exacerbated by the fact that Abbott won’t expand Medicaid.
The self-described “pro-life” governor scribbled his name on this legislation just one day after banning local government entities, including public schools, from enforcing Covid-19 mask mandates. So even in schools where many children have not received the vaccine yet, and which have decided for themselves that a mask requirement continues to make sense in a continuing deadly pandemic, will not be able to enforce that rule.
Ironically, after signing the executive order, Abbott tweeted: “Texans, not gov’t, should decide their best health practices.”
That’s exactly what reproductive rights advocates have been saying for years. But Abbott apparently means to apply the principle to everyone except pregnant women.
Nothing about Abbott or his Republican colleagues in Texas — aside from their apparent concern for fetuses — suggests particular respect for life, but that’s been especially obvious over the past year. Texas refused Medicaid expansion in the middle of a pandemic last year, as tens of thousands of Texans died from Covid-19, effectively denying 1.5 million people in the state access to affordable health coverage. Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate and reopened nonessential businesses at 100 percent capacity in early March, long before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended doing so.
Abbot’s “pro-life” buddy, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, declared that senior citizens would be happily willing to die of Covid-19 for the sake of Texas’ economy. And Republican state Rep. Bryan Slaton introduced a bill that criminalizes abortion and threatens women and doctors with the death penalty, even in cases of rape and incest — effectively admitting that he would prioritize a fetus’ life over that of a living person.
Now Texas is banning abortion as soon as the fetal heartbeat is detected, which is before many women even realize they’re pregnant. Such laws, as we know from a time in this country before abortion was legal, only push abortion underground and result in desperate women seeking dangerous, unregulated methods of ending their unwanted pregnancies. Wealthy women may be able travel to another state where abortion is legal; but low-income women who may have jobs and/or other children cannot so easily make the trip to Chicago to find a provider there.
To be clear, banning safe, legal abortions will cause women to die.
I reported in 2014 that deadly back-alley abortions were already returning in Texas, where lawmakers have been on a crusade to limit women’s reproductive freedom for over a decade. Now the stakes are higher, as former President Donald Trump has appointed three new anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and tipped it solidly conservative for a generation to come.
The Supreme Court just took up a case this week that could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion until the fetus is viable. And if it does, laws like the one Abbott just signed in Texas could be allowed to stand.
To be clear, banning safe, legal abortions will cause women to die. Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the world. Before Roe, hundreds of American women died from illegal abortions each year — which necessitated the high court decision in the first place.
The governor can call himself “anti-woman,” or “pro-birth,” but he can’t call himself “pro-life” when he and his state are recklessly trying to kill people.