The goal of the Texas abortion law is public humiliation of women
A new law banning women from getting an abortion after six weeks is a result of fundamentalist totalitarianism and will disproportionately affect poor women, says Jill Filipovic
On 1 September, Texas, the second-largest state in the US with a population larger than that of Australia, implemented a shockingly invasive and misogynistic law intended to prevent Texan women from exercising their constitutionally-protected right to abortion.
The law deputizes any person in the US to act as an anti-abortion vigilante, giving them the right to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman who ends a pregnancy after six weeks. That’s anyone who performs the abortion, helps her pay for it, gives her a glass of juice in the recovery room afterwards, or drives her to the clinic. For their efforts, the person suing will have their legal costs covered, and will be awarded $10,000 if they win. The person being sued has no right to recover their legal costs.
The law offers no exceptions for women or girls pregnant from rape or incest. So, for example, the 13-year-old Texas girl who was raped and impregnated by her grandfather would no longer be able to access a safe abortion under Texas law – unless she wanted to risk her doctor, her family, and her loved ones being bankrupted by the legal system. Close to 15 million American women and girls now live under the harsh thumb of this law, and do not have the same right to abortion as every other person in America.
One fitting word for this is “barbarism.” Another term might be fundamentalist totalitarianism. Encouraging citizens to spy on each other, rat each other out, ostracize and publicly shame wrongdoers, and exact huge life-destroying penalties on their loved ones is the kind of “justice” we expect from dictators and despots, not the allegedly freedom-loving patriots of the United States.
The point of this law is not just to make it nearly impossible for women to have abortions (“six weeks of pregnancy” is actually six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period – so often closer to two weeks of pregnancy, well before many women know they’re pregnant). It’s also to destroy the lives and livelihoods of anyone who is sympathetic to abortion rights – or even just sympathetic to an individual woman in need. There’s little question that anti-abortion groups will use this opportunity to sue clinic owners, doctors, nurses, abortion funds, and even pro-choice advocates.
Like so many laws restricting abortion, this one will hit poor women the hardest. Women lucky enough to have the resources will be able to travel out of state. Women who can’t afford a plane ticket or time off of work or who don’t have a car or gas money for a long drive (Texas is almost three times the size of the UK) will be stuck. The same women who may have correctly assessed that they cannot afford to have a child will be forced into it.
Subjugating women and punishing those who might try to stake out a little claim to freedom for herself – telling women we are not allowed control over our own bodies and curtailing our ability to choose our own futures – is always the point of anti-abortion laws. But here, there’s something else, too: Abortion opponents in Texas have created a way to drive their political opponents into bankruptcy and ruin.
Public humiliation of women, and destruction of those who would help them, is the ultimate goal.