SB 8 disregards standard health rights


Art by Kinu Blackwelder

Grace Ann Lesser, Mirada Staff

On Sep. 1, Texas State Senate Bill 8, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, went into effect. Passed in May of this year, this bill prohibits the performance of abortions if the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected, which occurs at around six weeks after the patient’s last period. Like many other controversially restrictive anti-abortion bills, this does not allow many patients adequate time to even realize that they are pregnant before it is too late for them to get an abortion.

However, what sets this bill apart from other harsh anti-abortion legislation is that the state of Texas itself cannot enforce it. Instead, it is only to be implemented by civilians, who can choose to sue anyone they believe has aided or abetted in the performance of an abortion, ranging from the doctor who induced the abortion, to the Uber driver who drove the patient to the procedure. In other words, Texas is allowing vigilante justice to prevent people from having access to the healthcare they need. 

Of course, it seems unlikely that a civilian would spend the time and money to go after individuals without any kind of personal stake in the case. This is why the state will cover the plaintiffs’ legal costs, and grant these anti-abortion bounty hunters a reward of “not less than $10,000” for each abortion performed. As pointed out by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Texas Legislature likely attempted to avoid inevitable challenges on the bill’s constitutionality by “enlisting private citizens to do what the state could not.” Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, joining with Justice Stephen Breyer, argued in their dissent that “since the State cannot regulate or proscribe abortion during the first stage . . . the State cannot delegate authority to any particular person . . . to prevent abortion during that same period.” 

As these Justices stated, this law is unjust and unconstitutional. It attempts to create a shady legal loophole that protects itself from being viewed as such, at the expense of the peoples’ health and safety. It is dangerous to not only people who may be punished for “aiding and abetting” in a necessary medical procedure, but also to the people who need abortions and will now be faced with the near-impossible task of obtaining one due to the risk of prosecution for medical institutions. Planned Parenthood South Texas has posted on their website; “Due to Texas’ SB 8 law, we are unable to provide abortions at this time.” Clearly this unjust law is doing harm to institutions that provide vital medical care, as well as the very people who need that medical care, and for that reason, it should be repealed.