NPR describes SB 8, the new Texas abortion law as: “…[it] prohibits terminations after about six weeks, even in the case of incest and rape, and it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone else who helps a woman break the law and gives them money if they win.”
If abortion was an issue that had a clear solution, like say, Covid vaccines, it would have been settled decades ago by the good people of America who are sometimes smarter than they look. But it doesn’t. It pits the individual rights of the woman carrying the fetus against the rights of the unborn fetus. Almost everyone in modern liberal secular democracies agree that a new born deserves the same protections from the state as any one else. Children are not considered the property of their parents to do with them as they choose. In that light, one way to frame the abortion question is: when does the state grant those rights to the child? At birth? Or when it is still a fetus but it is viable outside the womb, which depends on when and where you are pregnant? Or when a heartbeat is first detected using a Doppler transducer and increasingly more sophisticated scientific instruments? No one has a convincing answer, let alone a single correct answer. Texas grudgingly allowed abortions till 20 weeks. The new law lowers that down to six weeks. There isn’t any logical reason to not just keep going to “just a few seconds after fucking”.
The new Texas law relies on private citizens to sue anyone who aids in an abortion. The state will pay them up to $10,000 in bounty as an encouragement. The state is expressly forbidden from directly acting against those who break SB 8 for a reason. By turning all the people of Texas into peeping toms and snitches, the Texas law gets past the usual judicial process that would have otherwise declared the law unconstitutional.
At the center of the target of who gets sued in accordance to SB 8 is the doctor who performs the abortion. My friend Alan did exactly that six days after SB 8 went into effect and then he wrote about it in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
And that is why, on the morning of Sept. 6, I provided an abortion to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit.
I saw Alan two weeks before SB 8 went into effect at a lunch. We had a drink and got caught up and he chatted with Vivian who he still remembered as a little girl. Vivian and I had no idea that afternoon that we would be soon be reading about him in the national news.
Alan performed the abortion because as a doctor, he was simply providing medical care to his patient. It is his job. He swore to do it. But he is also testing the law. Someone needed to.
On the other side, who is the kind of person that stands up for the rights of the unborn fetus over the rights of the mother? That would be the kind of person who works on behalf of the weakest, who doesn’t hurt anyone, who is staunchly against any form of state sanctioned killings – abortion, war, capital punishment, etc. The kind of person who is probably a vegan and practices non-violence even with regard other species. The kind of person who is the opposite of a red-meat-eating war-mongering law-and-order freak. Hmmm. I seemed to have explained myself into the exact opposite of reality. So what is it then that motivates most anti-abortion Americans? Certainly not pacifism and non-violence toward fellow humans. It is because their god prohibits them from committing adultery, eating shellfish, aborting fetuses, and several other things. Adultery and shellfish are a lot harder to give up than telling someone else not to get an abortion.
I’ll never get an abortion – but simply because I’ll never get pregnant. I can’t tell you whether you should – I don’t have the moral certitude or authority. But I do hope that the world that my children grow up in is one where abortion is less necessary. No one wants one. But if someone needs one, that it is legal and safe. Abortion often ends the possibility of a life that could have been, and changes another for ever. Let us let them sort that out with their doctor and their god. Your god won’t mind if you comfort them instead.