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Columnist Cameryn Schafer discusses the Heartbeat Bill in Texas and the various circumstances experienced by millions of uterus owners that are restricted by the new law. 

Editor's Note: This column is a part of a series called “I’m hyperfocusing on...”.

I’m a little bit late to this topic, but I feel like it’s been calling my name a lot this week, so here I am to discuss the Texas Heartbeat Bill. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, passed a bill into law a few weeks ago that bans any and all abortions six weeks after the conception date, including in cases resultant of rape or incest, starting in September.

I’d like to bring the six weeks limit into perspective for everybody. A fetus' heart will beat at six weeks from conception, but the actual conception date is not the same as the medically recognized conception date. Most people don’t actually know that they are pregnant at the medically recognized six weeks. The date of conception is marked by the first day of the last menstrual cycle. A regular cycle varies in actual length, but it’s not uncommon for that cycle to be closer to five weeks.

If the conception actually happens at the end of this cycle, that’s five valuable weeks lost for scheduling an ultrasound, deciding what to do and scheduling an abortion. Additionally, pregnancy tests detect hCG, a hormone released after implantation of a zygote, which typically takes about a week. That means that even if somebody is taking a pregnancy test every single day, they still might not know that they’re pregnant until after the six-week mark has passed. 

Because of this law, millions of people with a uterus are put in a dangerous situation. With the inability for rape and incest victims to abort a fetus, they are forced to bring a child into the world without a say in their own future. Not only that, but they are unable to start the healing process emotionally for months or even years longer as their body changes and continues to remind them of their trauma.

hCG test

A pregnancy test functions by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that is only released after implantation of a zygote. This means that somebody taking the test would only get a positive result a week after true conception at the earliest, which is a different date than the medically recognized conception date that is used to determine the "age" of a pregnancy.

Beyond these cases, there are many other valid situations in which somebody might choose to terminate a pregnancy. The individual carrying the fetus might not be medically capable of carrying to term, thereby putting their own life on the line for the survival of a fetus. A pregnancy might be nonviable, such as in a case that came up on my Facebook feed a while ago in which the mother had to undergo radiation therapy early on in the pregnancy. The fetus failed to develop a brain beyond the brain stem and was very unlikely to survive after birth.

Medical reasons aren’t the only reason justifiable for terminating a pregnancy. Many people aren’t financially stable enough to support a child. This might be because they are young and in school, living in an unsafe environment or are already struggling to support the children they’ve already had, for a few examples. The parents of the fetus might not be emotionally prepared to raise a child.

Contraceptives fail all too often, and many children are brought into the world to parents that aren’t ready. Every day, people are forced to give up their aspirations and everything they’ve worked for because of an unexpected pregnancy. Even worse, many uterus owners are denied the option of a long-term pregnancy prevention like a tubal ligation for hypothetical reasons (a potential future partner’s desire for children).

For those of us that aren’t residents of Texas, this bill is just as important to us. This bill being passed into law opens up the gate for other states to sign similar bills into law, leaving millions of more people with a uterus vulnerable to the repressive legislature that values a clump of cells over a healthy, living individual.

In Iowa, the law currently states that abortion is legal up until 20 weeks of pregnancy, with minors requiring parental permission to undergo an abortion. As the U.S. Supreme Court looks to a new case that might overturn Roe v. Wade, those of us that have a uterus are at risk of losing protection of our bodily autonomy.

I urge everyone to take action to defend reproductive rights. Call your representative and stand up for your body. Stand up for your voice. Stand up for your future.

cameryn schafer profile

Cameryn Schafer is a senior majoring in dietetics and animal ecology pre-vet with a minor in classical studies.

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(2) comments

David Jackson

The only thing less scientific or remotely intelligent than the comparison of a developing child to a “clump of cells” is the cult like repetition of the phrase “uterus owner” lol.

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