Tough abortion laws divide US: “Scary”

Background: Abortion in the United States

There are several guiding decisions that regulate the right to abortion in the United States. Most famous is the so-called “Roe against Wade” from 1973. It establishes women’s right to abortion with reference to the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which deals with the constitutionally protected right to privacy.

According to “Roe against Wade”, abortion is allowed until the fetus shows viability, which then, in 1973, was described as between week 24 and 28. However, abortions after week 21 are very unusual.

After “Roe against Wade”, the right to abortion has been confirmed by several rulings in the Supreme Court. In 1992, several states’ attempts to impose abortion bans were declared unconstitutional.

However, state laws play a big role in whether it is possible to have an abortion. Some conservative state governments have set such strict rules for abortion clinics that many of them have been forced to close. Limits have also been set for how late an abortion may be performed. Georgia and Missouri – and now also Texas – have, for example, introduced so-called heartbeat laws that limit abortion to the first weeks of pregnancy.

The Texas Abortion Act does not make an exception for cases where the pregnancy was caused by incest or rape. It is legally ingeniously constructed, among other things, it makes it possible for private individuals to sue anyone who is suspected of having helped a woman to have an abortion – doctors and nurses but also taxi drivers and others.

The issue of abortion is intensely discussed among politicians in the United States. Those who oppose the intervention are often conservative and / or religious Republicans. Among Democrats, it is more common to defend the right to abortion.

– The law has saved many lives.

– We can create a society where you do not have to have an abortion, where we instead help and support pregnant women, she claims by phone from the head office in California.

Beall’s Catholic organization trains activists who with “calm, loving and positive presence” stand outside abortion clinics in 214 locations in almost every state, including Texas. Unlike louder abortion opponents, who are often seen in the picture, they hope to be a sensible support for women and families who want to talk about alternatives to abortion, she says. Like many opponents of abortion, Beall is convinced that life begins at conception and she sees abortion as a violent procedure, which takes life.

Equal society?

There she differs from Donna Howard, who is a Democratic state legislator in Texas and a nurse.

– I think we can all agree that a pregnant woman carries potential life, but there is no consensus about when life actually begins, she says when she receives TT at her ornate office on the ground floor of the congress building in Austin.

– The “heartbeats” of the embryo that the Texas law refers to are not really heartbeats. They are electrical impulses from heart cells that certain ultrasounds can detect.

Democrat Donna Howard is sitting in the Texas state legislature and has repeatedly defended the right to abortion. In the shelf behind her, a pink, knitted uterus she received as a gift at a demonstration can be seen.

On a shelf behind the full desk is a bright pink, knitted uterus. Howard received it from an activist at one of the many demonstrations for abortion law she participated in.

– I’m so old that I remember what it was like in the US before “Roe mot Wade” (the HD decision that regulates the right to abortion) and it is not something we want to return to. A society where women do not have control over their own bodies is not equal, she reasons.

Appealed to HD

The abortion issue has been infected and politicized in the United States for a long time, but the tone was further raised in the fall, when Texas’ controversial abortion law came into force. It prohibits the procedure when a heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around week 6 when few women even know they are pregnant. The writing has been questioned because a human embryo that week is as big as a grain of rice, but Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was proud when he signed the law this summer.

– Our Creator blessed us with the gift of life. Despite this, millions of children lose the right to their lives every year due to abortion. In Texas, we are working to protect those lives, he said according to news agencies.

Texas Republican governor, Trump loyalist Greg Abbott. Stock Photography.

The Texas law, which effectively stops all abortions, was introduced despite strong protests from President Joe Biden’s administration and after the Supreme Court (HD) in Washington DC failed to act on an emergency petition to stop it.

However, HD has announced, during the current school year, a position is taken on an abortion law from Mississippi, which bans the procedure after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Cancel “Roe vs. Wade”?

This is in line with what abortion opponents in the United States are hoping for. Many of them saw a friend of former President Donald Trump who in his time appointed no less than three conservative and abortion-skeptical HD judges.

The reason opponents keep their fingers crossed that the Mississippi abortion law (or a similar one, like the one in Texas) is upheld by HD is that in practice it would mean that “Roe vs. Wade” is repealed.

“Roe against Wade” from 1973 is the most famous HD decision that regulates the right to abortion, with reference to the constitutionally protected right to privacy. It stipulates that abortion should be allowed until the fetus is viable outside the uterus, which was then described as between weeks 24 and 28.

An abortion opponent protests outside an abortion clinic in Dallas, Texas. Stock Photography.

If the Mississippi abortion law gets the green light when HD announces its decision this summer, it means that it is free for individual states to introduce abortion rules that are stricter than “Roe against Wade” – which Texas has already done.

– In practice, no abortions have been performed here since 1 September. Those who can afford it go to other states, but for the financially disadvantaged it is a huge problem, says Howard, who considers the new law “extremely frightening”.

Texas’ abortion ban gave rise to emotional rallies – both for and against – when it was introduced last fall. But when TT visits the state, it is quiet at the abortion clinics. The law is still in force, which means that abortion opponents are happy. And abortion advocates seem to be catching their breath.

– Women’s rights and equality are still the most important issues for me, but now I am aiming for the election this autumn. I hope that (Governor) Greg Abbott is voted out because he does not represent my views, says student Vedika Chaci, who has participated in several demonstrations for abortion law and who TT meets at a democratic campaign meeting in Austin.

Vedika Chaci, studying political science in the Texas capital Austin. She has demonstrated against Texas’ new hard abortion laws.

A divided people

The issue of abortion is complex and in the United States spans politics and religion as well as the view of the individual’s freedom. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly who opposes the procedure, but abortion opponents here often describe themselves as conservative Republicans who are often deeply religious. Democrats more often defend the right to abortion, but the gray scale is large.

It is clear, however, that advocates and opponents do not have much left for each other. Fierce debates are watched closely in Congress and in the media. A survey by the opinion institute Gallup published this summer shows that Americans are in principle divided into two camps: 47 percent believe that abortion is morally defensible while 46 percent are of the opposite opinion.

A demonstration for abortion law in Chicago this fall. Stock Photography.

Elisabeth Beall regrets that the debate is so infected. She believes that the media’s angry tone hinders the possibilities for a sincere discussion about what she describes as a difficult but important topic.

– But I am also happy, because during the seven years my organization has existed, we have helped over 16,000 women not to have an abortion. There are many lives.

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