Last week, the Supreme Court refused to block Texas Senate Bill 8, or S.B. 8 — a draconian “heartbeat law” (which is itself a medically inaccurate moniker) that sidesteps the Constitution in favor of vigilante justice.
And at midnight on Sept. 1, it became illegal to seek an abortion in the state of Texas after six weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. Those who choose to seek abortions, and anyone who aids them along the way, can be prosecuted by any random citizen on the street for up to $10,000, plus legal fees.
I don’t need to work hard to summon the anger I feel over this new law. I actually don’t need to work at all. It is always curdling just beneath the surface of my skin.
S.B.8 is unconscionably cruel. But it is also arrogant. It lets lawmakers assume the mantle of decision-making for women in place of doctors, other medical professionals and women themselves. Lawmakers who have likely never been in a high-risk obstetrics ward, who have never had to decide between getting an abortion or possibly dying and abandoning their already-alive child, have hubristically decided that they know best.
Outside of the fantasyland that these lawmakers live in is a place called reality, where professionals who do, in fact, know best — high-risk obstetricians, such as Chavi Eve Karkowsky — are unequivocally clear that abortions are frequently life-or-death cases.
“I need to be able to discuss, recommend and perform abortions somewhat regularly,” Karkowsky wrote for the Atlantic. “This is not because I want to kill babies or end desired pregnancies. It is because, in many cases, I am walking patients and their families through a nightmare.”
I would not wish a nightmare pregnancy — a fetus developing without a brain, pregnancy due to rape, water breaking at 19 weeks — on anyone, including the authors of S.B.8. But not one part of me believes a person could go through such an experience and continue on, in good conscience, to author that law. (Although I have to admit that good conscience decision-making doesn’t really seem to matter to “pro-life” Republicans anyway, since so many of them go on to seek abortions in their own private lives. I could write a Dr. Seuss book out of the hypocrisy — Do what I say, not what I do! Abortions for me, no abortions for you!)
Just for the fun of it, let’s pretend that the Texas Senate actually does care about protecting life. The concept of being “pro-life” has been bandied about a lot lately, but I think it requires some interrogation to get to the heart of what that actually means. What is a life?
Perhaps an unborn child, depending on your religious and spiritual beliefs.
Certainly a child who has already been born.
You would think, then, that Texas would have the highest standards of care for infants and children. Surely they would recognize not just the rights of the unborn, but also that other Catholic precept towards life — the right of every human being to a dignified natural death.
Well, (to the surprise of no one!) you would be wrong.
Setting aside the staggering hypocrisy of claiming to be pro-life while forbidding mask mandates in the midst of a deadly pandemic, there is plenty of other evidence that human life is not actually all that sacred in Texas. Not after birth, anyway. Within the last two years, the state has been ranked 22nd for infant mortality rates; 40th and 39th for its number of poor and extremely poor children, respectively; and has been given a stunning 49th place for the health of its children, measured across key performance metrics including low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance and the child and teen death rate.
Texas IS the best at one thing, though — the state has been #1 at executing prisoners on death row since 1976, with a whopping 572 executions in the last forty years.
So you’ll excuse me if I can’t find it in myself to be understanding or polite to the pro-life movement anymore. I am all out of grace. What is happening in Texas right now reflects an ugly tenet of the cause and blots out the few people who genuinely do care about protecting all life — the people who can admit that being actually pro-life means supporting a child from conception until natural death, with tax dollars and social welfare programs and definitely not the death penalty.
We’ve seen that Texas is decidedly not a pro-life state. The quality of life for infants and children there speaks for itself. So, what is S.B.8, then? It’s a way to control women.