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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students debate new Texas abortion restrictions

Photo by Creative Commons

The recent passing of Senate Bill 8 has sparked debate from both sides of the abortion argument while calling the new piece of legislature into question. 

Texas A&M student organizations representing both sides of the abortion debate critiqued Texas’s new “heartbeat bill” — the most restrictive abortion ban in the country as of Sept. 1.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 19, prohibits abortions once a “fetal heartbeat” can be detected, a point that can come as early as six weeks into gestation, before most women ever know they are pregnant. Two student organizations at Texas A&M, Pro-Life Aggies and Feminists for Reproductive Equity & Education, or FREE, offer resources and supportive services for reproductive health and education, though each sits on opposing sides of the political issue.
On one side of the fence, Pro-Life Aggies is a non-partisan, secular organization focusing on promoting pro-life positions, communication junior and Pro-Life Aggies officer Tucker Hall said. The organization does so through public advocacy and by providing resources to students who are expecting or raising children, such as scholarship money or free babysitting services.
“Our big thing is just education and supporting people who’ve chosen life and trying to help people balance those responsibilities,” Hall said. “I believe in providing the most resources possible to try to aid in making [abortion] not the decision that needs to happen.”
On the other side, FREE’s stated goal is to educate the community on reproductive justice and health, public health junior and FREE officer Nimisha Srikanth said. FREE hosts resource drives for abortion funds, advocacy campaigns and education events over a variety of related subjects, she said.
“We create an environment where everyone has access to make choices that are best for their lives,” Srikanth said. “We also speak on a lot of topics like environmental, immigrant and language justice, because a lot of things are very intersectional.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act has a myriad of intersectional effects, Srikanth said.
I. Enforcement
Eight days after Senate Bill 8, or SB8, went into effect, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland filed a lawsuit from the Department of Justice against the state of Texas on Sept. 9, which will question the law’s validity against rights to privacy established in court cases such as Roe v. Wade, according to the lawsuit.
“Texas enacted in open defiance of the Constitution,” the lawsuit reads. “It is settled constitutional law that ‘A state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’”
Hall said he disagrees.
“I don’t find it unconstitutional,” Hall said. “The way I see it, Roe v. Wade is rather unconstitutional because it doesn’t allow people to have their right to life, which is one of our given rights. But, it’s also not a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade.”
According to SB8’s text, the new law will only be enforced through “private civil actions.” No criminal proceedings are brought forth by the law, unlike the laws struck down by Roe v. Wade. Material sciences & engineering junior and FREE officer Salem Smith said this could entice private citizens to take advantage of a pregnant woman’s situation.
“It makes anyone who is an advocate or a supporter of abortion rights liable to be sued by private citizens for a bounty of up to $10,000,” Smith said. “This is just incentivizing people to negatively harm their communities and the most vulnerable populations of those communities. Anybody can become a vigilante.”
It is unclear what conduct can actually qualify someone to be held liable under the law, Smith said.
“Any person … may bring civil action against any person who performs or induces an abortion … [or] knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” the law reads, “Regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed.”
Although Pro-Life Aggies hasn’t given an official statement on the Heartbeat Act, Hall said most members support it.
“While it is one of the most strict abortion bans in the United States yet, I believe that life begins at conception,” Hall said. “So, I love any step forward taken for a more pro-life world. One thing the law says is the woman doesn’t get penalized, and I’m all for that. Sometimes I believe these people can be just as much victims as the child, it’s a really hard decision.”
II. Reproductive Autonomy
Srikanth said the law still puts a “huge” population at risk.
“You’re going to see that a lot of [Black, indigenous and people of color], working people and people who really cannot afford to have another child are not going to have access to get a safe and legal abortion anymore,” Srikanth said. “Obviously, they can still get it outside of Texas, but to travel, with the costs of taking time off of work, it’ll become a very expensive process. This basically does ban abortion in the state for those who can’t afford it, which is a severe attack on people’s reproductive rights and [equal opportunity].”
Additionally, the average person will not realize they have missed a period until four weeks have passed in their menstrual cycle, Srikanth said, which only leaves two weeks, or sometimes a few days, to get an abortion before a fetal “heartbeat” could be detected under the law.
“This bill is just extremely unconstitutional because in Roe v. Wade it says that there cannot be any reasonable attempt to ban abortion or make it completely inaccessible, which is what this bill does,” Smith said.
Experts and advocates have begun to argue in recent years that banning abortion by legal means does not decrease the real number of abortions performed — it just makes the procedure more dangerous.
“One case that’s often brought up in Texas is that of Rosie Jimenez, who died from an unsafe abortion after she was denied access in Texas due to restrictive laws,” Smith said. “[FREE is] planning on holding a protest in October on the date of her death to honor the people who have died through unsafe abortions.”
Some methods increasingly used for abortions outside of a clinic include “Plan C,” one of many online providers of the two pills, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, which are employed in contemporary “medication abortions,” according to Plan C’s website.
“It is very much an independent process, whereas somebody might want to have a medical practitioner watching out for them and making sure that the process goes through completely and successfully,” Srikanth said. “So, abortions will always happen. It is unfortunate that it’s not going to be as safe, and it won’t be legal anymore.”
Hall agreed there is a possibility of unsafe abortions, but argued it is overblown that many people will be making that choice.
“I think that with [this] legislation, we are going to be greatly reducing the number of lives lost,” Hall said. “And also, I think important things — to not only combat [unsafe abortions] but to support the people who are considering those options — are the education and resources that we need to continue to focus on.”
Hall said a lot of people are unaware of the options they have other than abortion, such as adoption.
“People talk about how bad the adoption system is, but that’s primarily for people who are older children, teens and stuff like that,” Hall said. “However, there are waitlists for babies like newborns. Adoption is a lot easier than people think when it comes to a newborn child. I don’t believe that you should punish an innocent life for the actions of an evil person. They’re separate people.”
Adoption requires carrying a child fully to term, however, which is not an option for many individuals, Srikanth said.
“You could realize nine weeks into being pregnant that carrying this child to term could mean you may bleed out and die, yet Texas will not allow you to get an abortion,” Srikanth said.
On another hand, a full-term pregnancy doesn’t have to be life-threatening in order to be traumatic, expensive and unwanted, Srikanth said. Unlike pro-life legislation of years past, the Heartbeat Act lacks any exceptions for pregnancies occurring from rape and incest, Smith said.
“You could realize eight weeks into your pregnancy that the fetus you’re carrying is not viable and will be stillborn on death,” Srikanth said. “You could be raped and be seven weeks pregnant, and Texas would not allow you an abortion [under this law] and would prosecute those who help you harder than your rapist.”
III. Community Resources
On the topic of contraception and other resources, the two groups may not be entirely at odds. For those on campus, FREE has a sexual health resource distribution service, Srikanth said.
“On our Instagram, we have a Linktree, and there’s an application where you can fill out if you need, say, condoms, lube, Plan-B or a pregnancy test, depending on our availability and our supplies,” Srikanth said.
Pro-Life Aggies, unlike some other pro-life groups, does not stand against contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, and thereby prevent abortions. The group’s official statement is that life begins at conception, Hall said.
For those who are pregnant, Pro-Life Aggies connects people to pregnancy centers in the area, such as the Hope Pregnancy Center of the Brazos Valley.
“A lot of people say that we only care about pre-birth and we don’t care about the child afterward, which is why a big part of our organization has now been focusing on supporting the mother after birth and showing we’re going to support you all the way through that, with the necessary resources,” Hall said.
In spite of their different worldviews, both organizations affirm their support for parents in the community after the delivery room.
“Reproductive justice is not just the ability to control your reproductive and sexual health,” Srikanth said. “It’s really anything that allows a person to get to raise a child, give birth and create a family for themselves, however they may define it and however they may want it.”

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