The anti-abortion law, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott nearly two months ago, prohibits women from getting safe, legal abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy—a time period in which most women don't even realize they're pregnant. Since approximately 90 percent of abortions are performed after the six weeks, it's amounts to a near total ban of the procedure.
Six week bans have been universally blocked by courts because they are unconstitutional and violate the landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade, says Ianthe Metzger, director of state media campaigns for Planned Parenthood
However, Texas legislators are trying to circumvent those rulings with SB 8 by having private citizens enforce the law, incentivizing people—including anti-choice activists—with a $10,000 reward for turning in abortion providers, plus a court order preventing them from providing abortions in the future.
"It's very extreme—it's basically putting a bounty on somebody's head," Metzger tells Well+Good. "It's not the patient being sued. It's the doctor, it's the friend who gives them money for the abortion, it's everybody around them and it creates a culture of isolation and stigmatization, which is this law is so much more dangerous."
Texas already has stringent legislation in place around reproductive health. Currently, the law requires people who want an abortion to wait 24 hours to make their decision, undergo medically unnecessary ultrasounds, and read discredited information about abortion, explains Autumn Keiser, director of marketing and communications at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. The state is also still dealing with the fallout from HB 2, which closed approximately half of the abortion providers in the state when it passed in 2013.
"Despite HB 2 being largely overturned by the US Supreme Court, Texas still has vast regions where patients must drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion," Keiser tells Well+Good. "This presents a myriad of logistical and financial barriers to overcome to receive this time-sensitive healthcare. SB 8 would be not only the most extreme abortion law in Texas, but in the nation—shutting down nearly all that remains of abortion access in the state."
In addition to the law potentially draining clinics of their resources, millions of Texans will be affected—particularly in rural, low-income communities and for people of color.
"We don’t have to guess what the likely impact will be on the lives and health of Texans if SB 8 is allowed to go into effect," says Keiser. "Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott banned abortion during the first surge of COVID-19 in Texas, essentially creating a health crisis within a health crisis. Texans seeking abortion were forced to either wait for weeks or travel out of state during a pandemic to get an abortion. It was a devastating, chaotic time for patients already grappling with economic uncertainty and fears about their health."
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas will continue to provide medication and surgical abortion in accordance with the law come September 1, while continuing to do everything in their power to overturn it, says Keiser. Until then, they'll fight the law alongside their network of supporters, which include doctors, clergy, abortion funds and clinic staff.
“It is unthinkable that anti-abortion extremists could be allowed to stand in the way of people accessing essential health care," said Melaney Linton, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, per a press release. "And SB 8 goes even further by incentivizing those extremists to pursue frivolous lawsuits against anyone who helps a person access the health care they need, which has dangerous implications for our patients, our health centers, our communities, and our entire legal system."
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"We also want Texans to know how to prepare should SB 8 go into effect on September 1 and as our litigation progresses through the courts," says Keiser. Visit ppgreatertx.org/SB8 for the most current guidance on abortion access, health care guidance, and other resources.
If you need to speak with a health-care professional, please contact your nearest Planned Parenthood (even if it's in a different state) or call 1-800-230-7526.
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