Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 447, 9 October 2021

The US: Protests against the Texas anti-abortion law
Sambavi Parthasarathy

In the news
On 1 October, the most restrictive abortion law, which had come into effect since 1 September 2021 that prohibits women from terminating fetuses only after six weeks of pregnancy was evaluated again through a virtual hearing before Judge Robert Pitman of the US District Court. The federal judge questioned the State of Texas on why they had to go to such great lengths with this bill if they believed in constitutionality as they claimed. However, a nationwide women's march from 600 cities in a total of 50 states was witnessed the very next day implored more than ten thousand people to participate in the clamorous rally for abortion justice.

Issues at large
First, the difficulties in challenging the bill. Activists and lawyers in opposition to this bill have been finding the long-drafted law difficult to challenge, especially because of the way it is written and its immunity to be challenged as 'unconstitutional' since its enforcement is vested upon people and not officials of its State. The problematic law makes a rather narrow exception by only allowing termination of those pregnancies that endanger the mother's life while leaving those resulting from rape or incest to seek abortion elsewhere.

Second, the refusal of the Supreme Court. The stunning silence, followed by the refusal of the very Court that had legalized abortion with its landmark judgement in Roe Vs Wade case, has led to numerous protestors voicing out for their rights. Around a thousand protestors walked in a clamorous procession to the Supreme Court, imploring Americans to engage in a nationwide protest, not only in Washington but also in Chicago, San Francisco, New York and other forty-six states.

Third, the virtual hearing. The Justice Department had sued the State for its restrictive law, also known as SB 8, the hearing of which took place on 1 October between The State of Texas represented by Will Thompson and The Justice department by Brian Netter. Robert Pitman, the federal judge, deliberately weighed both sides of the argument. The Justice Department emphasized the extent of difficulties and forced motherhood the bill promotes. He also criticized the enforcement scheme as an unconstitutional sidestep that impairs the fundamental rights of women and prevents them from challenging it. The State, however, argued that the entire law was constitutional and the department lacked the legal threshold for an injunction and that its lawsuit lacks merit. Pitman, however, has offered no timetable for the decision but assured the inclusion of their arguments.

In perspective
First, the probable imitation of SB 8. The 1973 landmark judgement did reshape American politics into those in favour of it and those against it. The Republicans pushed for the Texas abortion law does not to ban the practice itself but to bring out an imperative control of the State with its cleverly schemed 'constitutionality' factor; the implementation of which encourages other states to go ahead with strict measures. While the significant judgement of 1973 had made abortion every woman's right, the six-week ban refuses to see the fact that the realization of pregnancy itself might take six weeks. Second, the impact on women. This bill largely affects coloured, poor and even minors who might not have enough financial aid to apply for abortion since it's not covered as a part of health insurance making the women's march a significant event in exercising their willingness. Victims of rape or incest who are not exempted from this law might be forced to carry the child to term. It poses an imperative to the very guaranteed fundamental right imploring women around the globe to voice out their support.

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