The Abortion Rights fight in Southern States
Updated: 3 days ago
By: Jessica Powell
Image retrieved from Evan L’roy, The Texas Tribune
TW: Discussions of rape, incest
As the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling shakes the country, individuals are taking to the streets to call for reproductive justice. The ruling effectively overturns Roe v. Wade, allowing states to make their own laws on abortion access. In some states, women and pregnant individuals will continue to have rightful access to abortions. In others, it is becoming criminal to seek an abortion such as Alabama, Texas, and Florida.
As a writer based in Alabama, we’ll begin the discussion there. Before the Dobbs ruling, 58% of adults in Alabama already believed abortions should be illegal. Although Roe protected women’s rights to an abortion, Alabama lawmakers set unnecessary standards to prevent women from successfully having an abortion, such as numbers of employees, building standards, and equipment in clinics. So, while abortion was not technically banned in Alabama prior to Dobbs, it became increasingly harder to obtain one. In fact, Alabama was 1 of 13 states with a restrictive abortion law passed, ready to be instated, when Roe was overturned. Under the Human Life Protection Act, any physician who performs an abortion in Alabama is guilty of a Class A felony, and could be subject to a life sentence. In Alabama, abortions are banned except in cases of “life endangerment” or “serious health risks” to the pregnant individual. However, with doctors being threatened with felony charges, the line that separates “endangerment” of life or “serious” health risks from moderate risks is blurred. Many doctors are not willing to risk their license, reputation, and life in order to perform an abortion. This means that maternal death rates among women will rise, as women and pregnant individuals will not receive adequate health care.
Alabama is unfortunately not the only state to jump on banning abortions immediately following the overturning of Roe. Texas was yet another state with a trigger law ready to be initiated when the Dobbs ruling was finalized. In Texas, the law will ban abortions from the moment of fertilization (though, many don’t know they’re pregnant until 10 weeks), except in cases where “substantial bodily function” is threatened. While abortion access is virtually being eliminated in Texas, many women are traveling to other states or countries to obtain abortions and abortion drugs. While lawmakers in Texas strive to eliminate all access to abortions, the trigger law is currently on pause. Abortions in some Texas clinics can continue up to six weeks of pregnancy due to a Harris County District Court judge blocking the abortion ban. Judge Christine Weems deemed the ban was inconsistent with the due process guaranteed in the Texas Constitution. However, this ruling affects only some clinics in Texas, and is only temporary, meaning abortion bans can, and will most likely, go into effect soon.
Florida’s current abortion law allows for abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy or in the case of rape or incest. However, Republican governor Ron DeSantis is pushing for a law to prohibit abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for life-endangerment of the mother or fatal abnormalities. This 15 week ban does not allow exceptions for rape, human trafficking, or incest. This law, like the one in Texas, has been temporarily blocked by a judge.
Women and pregnant individuals’ lives are at stake across the country – particularly in Southern states. GOP ruled, religious state lawmakers are making decisions that affect women’s livelihood and violate their privacy. With an increase in bans such as the ones in Southern states, more women and pregnant individuals will die, either from lack of adequate heath-care or from obtaining illegal abortions. In states across the United States, individuals are protesting for reproductive rights.
To find a protest near you or other ways you can help fight for reproductive rights, visit We Won’t Go Back.
Written by Jessica Powell.