In Texas, a state with more than 29 million people, almost all abortions could soon be banned.
If the law SB8 goes into effect on September 1, it will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable—about six weeks after conception.
“Many people do not realize they are pregnant until after six weeks,” the Center for Reproductive Rights shared in a press release. “Approximately 85%–90% of people who obtain abortions in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, meaning this law would prohibit nearly all abortions in the state.”
The law will also allow anyone to bring a civil lawsuit against any abortion provider, or anyone who “aid and abet” in an abortion. Those people would face damages of $10,000.
Abortion is legal in the United States. It’s a right, the Supreme Court has ruled, that is protected by the Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled not only that abortion is a right but also that it is illegal to place “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Yet states have spent decades passing laws that chip away at these rights, slowly squeezing abortion providers out of existence and making abortions almost impossible to actually obtain. In much of the United States, abortion is legal in name but not available in reality.
Twenty groups that provide abortions in Texas have sued over the law. “In effect,” their complaint reads, “S.B. 8 places a bounty on people who provide or aid abortions, inviting random strangers to sue them.” But on Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals canceled the hearing at which those women’s health groups would have been able to state their case. Emergency motions were also denied.
The state of abortion access in Texas was already grim. In 2016, in the case Whole Woman v. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a restrictive Texas abortion law, saying that it placed “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. It was a win for abortion access, theoretically. But in reality the yearslong case forced half the abortion providers in the state to close. A year after the Supreme Court decision, Glamour reported in 2017, only three of those clinics had reopened.
Every new state abortion law tends to be a bit confusing and hard to follow. But here’s the bottom line: Women are losing the right to decide what we do with our bodies. Legislators are taking away our choices about whether or not to become mothers.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.