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The nation is facing a social reckoning and firestorm of media coverage following the passage of S.B. 8, the abortion ban that took effect in Texas on Sept. 1, 2021.The Texas Heartbeat Act is considered to be the most restrictive abortion legislation in the nation. As the name suggests, the bill prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically five to six weeks after conception.
Considering 85% to 90% of all abortions in the state occur after the six-week period, the law effectively bans all abortion access in a state that already had limited access to begin with.
In addition to strict guidelines which make no exceptions, even in cases of rape or incest, S.B. 8 has empowered private citizens to essentially become bounty hunters by anonymously reporting individuals they believe have broken the law. A $10,000 bounty is being offered as compensation if someone is “successful” in suing a recipient or provider of a non-compliant abortion.
Regardless of individual opinions on abortion, we can’t mince words here: The implications of this bill on the lives of pregnant people in the state of Texas will be immense. On top of the psychological impacts of losing bodily autonomy – considered a crime against humanity by the United Nations – the financial implications could resonate for generations to come.
Here’s what you need to know about the immeasurable costs of S.B. 8.
What does S.B. 8 mean for Texans?
They say “everything is bigger in Texas,” and this sweeping legislation is no exception. For pregnant people in Texas, as well as advocates and health care workers, the implications of this bill will be a colossal social and economic burden.
While Texas is only one state, it’s important to put its size into perspective. Texas is more than “big” – it’s the size of many countries. As the second-largest state in the nation with a population of 29 million people, S.B. 8 has a disproportionate impact on the lives of millions of Americans. To put it into further perspective, the vote of 19 people – 11 men and eight women – has stripped the reproductive rights of millions of people.
For many Texans, the sheer geographic size of the state will serve as a prison, preventing pregnant people from seeking abortions in neighboring states. For example, a person living in central Texas – let’s say Waco – is six and a half hours by car from the nearest abortion provider in Arkansas and over seven hours from the nearest in Louisiana. For Texans without access to a car, the trip would be nearly impossible – there are no direct bus routes available.
For people of limited economic means, there will be no way out. Even if they manage to find the money for a car or flight, they will be forced to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on transportation and accommodations in neighboring states – all before the costs of the procedure itself.
The costs are incalculable
As with so many social policies in the U.S., those of fewer means will be disproportionately impacted by S.B. 8.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 75% of people who seek abortion have an income below the federal poverty line. And 46% of all abortions are performed on patients 24 years old or younger. Raise that age to 29, and you’re looking at 73% of all abortions performed annually.
Forcing the young and impoverished to keep an unwanted pregnancy can lead to cycles of generational poverty. One study by Health Affairs found that the average cost of delivery with insurance is roughly $4,500. For patients without access to quality health insurance, giving birth could cost $10,000 or more. Add the expense of prenatal care, which costs the average pregnant person $2,000 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and having a baby in Texas will cost anywhere from $6,500 to more than $12,000 – and that is barring any unforeseen medical complications.
The costs don’t stop there. For those who choose to keep their babies rather than giving them up for adoption, the costs of raising a child to adulthood will cost roughly $233,610, according to the USDA.
See related: The true costs of childcare and how to manage them
The truth is there is no magic calculator that will tell a pregnant person just how much it will cost to have that baby. Factors such as location, healthcare, education and support systems can significantly affect how much it costs to have and raise a child in America.
What S.B. 8 means for the future of Roe v. Wade
The landmark 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade ruled that women have the constitutional right to an abortion “without excessive government restriction.”
As President Biden said in a statement released Sept. 2, S.B. 8 is “blatantly unconstitutional” because “it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman – it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case.”
While S.B. 8 clearly violates the mandate set by Roe v. Wade that pregnant people shouldn’t face “excessive restriction,” a technicality in the law has made it more difficult for civil rights activists to challenge the ruling before the Supreme Court.
While multiple challenges were filed immediately following the passage of S.B. 8 against Texas judges, the Supreme Court did not grant an emergency injunction or stay order on the grounds that the judges were the wrong people to file the injunction against.
Because the Texas legislature empowered private citizens to enforce this law through lawsuits rather than empowering the state or local government, there is no clear entity to file an injunction against. This technicality was by no means accidental and provided a new method for pro-life activist groups to undermine Roe v. Wade.
On Sept. 9, the Justice Department filed suit against Texas over the constitutionality of S.B. 8. Still, legal experts say they face an uphill battle, as the majority conservative Supreme Court will likely have the final say.
How you can help people affected by S.B. 8
A loophole is available
There is a notable loophole for people in Texas seeking an abortion before the 12-week point in their pregnancy. The nonprofit group Plan C aids people seeking an abortion by helping them get access to safe at-home abortion pills. Currently, S.B. 8 does not cover or restrict access to abortion pills obtained online.
Civil rights and non-profit groups to support
With the threat of a $10,000 fine and costly legal fees hanging over the head of any individual found to be helping a person obtain an abortion, finding ways to help Texans affected by S.B. 8 will not be easy.
One way we can all help is by directly supporting nonprofit organizations whose mission is to aid and support abortion access for all. Below are a few organizations working in Texas to help pregnant people safely obtain an abortion.
- Lilith Fund: The Lilith Fund is a nonprofit in Texas that helps people who cannot financially afford an abortion. Over 75% of its clients are people of color and in the two weeks prior to the enactment of S.B. 8, the Lilith Fund ignored its budget to help as many people as possible.
- Jane’s Due Process: Jane’s Due Process is a Texas nonprofit that helps teens and young adults find access to abortion services. In Texas, teens can not get an abortion without parental consent, excluding Title X clinics.
- Fund Texas Choice: Fund Texas choice is a nonprofit that helps Texans with travel expenses associated with getting an abortion.
- Avow Texas: Avow Texas is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to secure unrestricted abortion access for all Texans in need.
- Planned Parenthood: Planned Parenthood is a national nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of reproductive healthcare services.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The ACLU is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to “defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
Contact the senators who voted in favor of S.B. 8
Speak up. Elected officials are supposed to act in the best interest of their constituents. If enough constituents make it clear that backing S.B. 8 is a deal-breaker for re-election, they can impact their decision-making process. As we all know, politicians want to stay in power.
You can find a full list of senators who voted in favor of S.B. 8 on LegiScan.
While things may seem bleak, it’s important to remember this fight isn’t over. Civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations are working tirelessly to fight for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in Texas and other states where reproductive rights are threatened. Now isn’t the time to give in. Use your voice, time and money (if possible) to support groups working towards an equitable society for all.