Texas Heartbeat Act Galvanizes Pro-Choice Activism

Annabella Castillo, contributor

The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect on September 1, 2021. Under this bill, abortions are now prohibited when a fetal heartbeat is identified. Often, this occurs at six weeks of pregnancy— which is before most women are even aware that they’re pregnant. The only legal exception to get an abortion under the Texas Heartbeat Act is if a physician identifies the abortion as a medical emergency. Cases of rape or incest are not exceptions to the Heartbeat Act. The law also allows a person to be sued for up to $10,000 if they are suspected of assisting someone in getting an abortion. This includes physicians who performed the procedure, other medical staff, those who aided in transportation and/or payment of the procedure and anyone else who helped give access the abortion. 

One option for persons in Texas seeking reproductive care, under this new act, is to drive to another state for the procedure. However, this isn’t viable for many marginalized groups, such as racial minorities, immigrants or the lower class. As such, this law will disproportionately affect those communities. 

Many reproductive rights and women’s rights organizations have met the bill with outrage, prompting a national response. Women’s March and 90 other organizations including Planned Parenthood, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice are calling citizens across the United States to “Mobilize and Defend” on October 2, 2021 and march for reproductive freedom. Along with the national response, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in federal court against Texas on September 9, 2021, on the grounds that the Texas Heartbeat Act is unconstitutional and goes against the federal court decision of Roe v. Wade.

 “It’s definitely an attack on reproductive rights. It’s a very brazen attempt to subdue reproductive freedoms and it’s very anti-choice.” President of Auggies Organizing for Choice, Rachel Ferkin says, “They say it’s a six week bill, but in reality it’s two weeks.”

The six week timeline begins as soon as the individual’s previous period ends. When someone misses their period, four weeks have already passed by that point. In two weeks, the pregnant person must schedule multiple doctor’s appointments, have an ultrasound (which is described to them in great detail), meet with an adoption agency, listen to a doctor recite a script of questionable medical information, and actually receive the procedure. Often, the two week period is too short to get all of these steps done. Many people don’t even know that they’re pregnant until eight weeks. Ferkin’s advice is, “Know your rights, know the laws in Minnesota, and be an advocate for yourself and others seeking reproductive health and justice.”

“Know your rights, know the laws in Minnesota, and be an advocate for yourself and others seeking reproductive health and justice.”

Rachel ferkin, president of auggies organizing for choice (AOC)

There are opportunities to advocate for reproductive rights here on campus. Auggies Organizing for Choice is an organization whose mission is to educate the student body on sex, reproductive health, and reproductive rights. The group is a member of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, a branch of Planned Parenthood that focuses on young people’s reproductive freedoms and has both college and high school chapters. Generation Action’s core principles are reproductive freedom, right to services, right to privacy, abortion, responsible sexual education, and governmental funding. AOC is currently looking for more board members, and anyone who is interested can request a membership through Auggie Life. They also host at least one event a month that is free to attend.

With groups mobilizing on both sides of the Texas Heartbeat Act, the actions taken in the coming weeks will be indicative of the state of America to come.