Conflict Alerts # 432, 8 September 2021
In the news
On 1 September, a Texas law banning abortion at six weeks took effect. On 7 September, Mexico decriminalized abortion. The laws passed reflect a stark difference in securing the rights of women. The Texas law is based on the detection of a foetal heartbeat and provides incentives to people who prevent abortion through cash rewards of up to USD 10,000.
Governor Abbott signed the bill when the US Supreme court was hearing a case regarding Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. Abbott praised the legislature saying: "worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I'm about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion."
President Biden has promised a "whole-of-government effort" directed by his Gender Policy Council to protect the rights of women in Texas and the constitutional right to abortion.
Issues at large
First, the Legislation. The law categorizes abortion as a civil violation, allowing people to sue anyone getting an abortion, including abortion care advocates. The bill makes no exceptions for pregnancies out of rape or incest. Mexico has annulled several provisions of Coahuila laws that made abortion a criminal act. While this decision could empower the mass outcry in Texas; it may also lead to more border crossings into Mexico to buy pills that are prescribed for abortion.
Second, involvement of the state in abortion health care. In Texas, abortion advocates lack support from the governor and await hearing of the Mississippi abortion law. While, Mexico has the world's second-largest Catholic population; the law has complimented the rising women's rights movement.
Third, the role of the Judiciary. The legislation is designed to deter abortions. Case in point Roe v. Wade, the Mississippi law hearing presents the US Supreme court with the opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade and weakening and limiting abortion rights to 15 weeks as per the Mississippi legislation.
Fourth, the divide between the Senate and Supreme bench. Nancy Pelosi ensured taking up the Women's Health Protection Act on 20 September. It is, however, unlikely for the bill to pass given the Senate 50-50 party split. The Supreme Court is a solid conservative split in 6-3 with lawyers.
Fifth, the protests in Texas. A women's march is planned for every single state for 2 October, before Biden's next term begins. Uber and Lyft have pledged support to the protest movement and have promised to cover the legal fee of people sued under the law and donated USD one million to Planned Parenthood. Women took to the streets of Mexico to celebrate the realization of their historic struggle for equality, dignity, and rights.
First, filibuster discussion. The Senate split is extremely evident at this point and brings back the discussion of the need to abolish the filibuster. In a moderate approach, there needs to be at least a conversation about the reformation of the filibuster.
Second, packing the court. In 2021, more than 561 abortion restrictive laws have been passed and 97 enacted. Texas lawmakers have opened doors for other Red states like Florida and Arkansas to pass more restrictive laws.
Third, gender rights taking a back seat. The law has failed in protecting the constitutional right of women and/or any gender to avail of health services. While Biden promised a whole-of-government effort, there have been talks about how Biden could pass legislation enshrining Roe v. Wade in the federal law which could consequently pre-empt the Texas law. While Mexico was able to decriminalize abortion owing to the growing feminist movement, it now has to undergo another battle to legalize abortion. Thus, the coming week is a major determinant of how far feminist and civic movements could influence the verdict both across and within the borders of Texas.