By Kaitlyn McCormick
Less than a year following Texas’s enactment of Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, other states throughout the nation have been pushing legislation that directly challenges abortion rights in America — a progression that will be detrimental to the health of pregnant people nationwide if successful.
In the spirit of SB8, lawmakers in Idaho passed legislation this month that would severely hinder the rights to abortion in the state. Senate Bill 1309 allows for a select group of relatives of a “preborn child” to sue an abortion provider, starting from $20,000. This group includes the “female upon whom an abortion has been attempted or performed,” as well as the father, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle of the “preborn child.”
The law enforces legal implications for procedures past the six-week marker, a time when the majority of people would not even know they were pregnant, and definitely not far enough along in gestation to warrant calling an embryo not viable outside the womb a “preborn child.”
The financial motivation for relatives to sue can and will be devastating to abortion providers in the state, which in turn would be detrimental to people actively seeking a safe abortion.
This recent legislation out of Idaho is only one of many similar bills sweeping the country, testing the limits of accessibility in reproductive health care and relying on the initiative of public citizens. Take for example Oklahoma House Bill 4327, which, similar to SB8, would in short allow citizens to sue not only abortion providers but other citizens for helping one to get an abortion or even for having the intention to do so.
These state bills aren’t even the greatest of threats to abortion rights in America, as the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case continues to be heard in the United States Supreme Court — a case that, depending on the verdict, directly challenges the precedent set by Roe v. Wade in 1973. This case questions the constitutionality of abortions on a broader spectrum and serves to set a new precedent banning abortions after the 15-week mark.
Consistent threats to abortion access in the United States don’t come as a surprise, but as state legislatures grow creative in finding loopholes for these restrictions, like allowing private citizens to sue those seeking or providing abortions depending on state, more and more women and childbearing people are put in danger. In instances like Texas’s SB8, which the Supreme Court upheld, abortions in the state dropped by 60% within the first month of the enactment, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, but that does not mean the procedure isn’t still being sought after.
No matter how many laws, policies and petitions pro-life legislators and supporters in these more conservative states put forth, the need for abortion will persist. Enacting highly restrictive legislation is not a comprehensive or compelling way to solve what many claim to be a concern for life, especially when these conversations often lack commitments to existing human life.
Abortion is health care. It is health care in and of itself, outside of the exceptions to the stigma involved in cases of incest or rape. It is illogical that anyone opposed to the medical procedure enough to sue or pass devastating legislation to hinder its use has a sincere interest in protecting life if they are not equally as loud, if not louder, about topics like enforcing safe-sex education, access to contraceptives, affordable child care and reliable parental leave.
More often than not, these laws and the rhetoric of the majority that support them have an off-putting tendency to read less like a genuine and respectable concern for life, rather as a way to feel righteous in the face of others’ personal, private and difficult decisions.
Kaitlyn McCormick, sophomore journalism major
and The Rider News Opinion Editor
Originally printed in the 3/30/22 issue.