On Sept. 1, senior Harmony-Keli Tomety crossed off all schools in the Lone Star State from her college list. And only one factor prompted her to do so: the recent Texas abortion legislation.
The Texas law, which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block in a 5-4 ruling on Sept. 1, prevents any abortion from taking place after the six-week mark in a pregnancy, which is when a heartbeat of a fetus can be detected, as well as punishes any person who aids in the act of receiving an abortion, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said during a bill signing ceremony in May. This legislation differs from others, as private citizens, not the state, will enforce this law by filing a lawsuit against abortion providers.
“[The Legislature] worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that I’m about to sign that ensures that the life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” Abbott said.
To comply with the law that went into effect on Sept. 1, abortion clinics in Texas have been forced to turn away clients who have passed the six week mark in their pregnancy, despite the growing demand for this medical procedure, Jackie Dilworth, Director of Marketing and Communications at Whole Women’s Health, a national privately-owned healthcare management company, said.
“Every day now, our Texas clinics turn away far more people than we can serve, and the urgency is growing by the minute,” Dilworth said. “People denied the abortion care they need are desperate; their pain and anguish is unacceptable and preventable.”
In response to the Texas abortion legislation, the U.S. House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act on Sept. 24, which would protect the ability for healthcare providers to offer abortion services without restrictions imposed by individual states. However, this was seen as a more symbolic vote, as it is unlikely that the bill will advance in the Senate.
Under the Reproductive Health Act, which was signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in June of 2019, any women in Illinois may receive an abortion until 24 weeks of pregnancy, with the exception of certain medical reasons. Motivated by fewer restrictions, women have begun traveling to Illinois to seek reproductive healthcare, Liz Kirkwood, Office Manager at Personal Pac in Illinois, a nonpartisan political action committee for women’s health, said.
“Illinois is the only state in the middle of the country that protects the right to an abortion, and millions of people who live in states where it will be impossible to get an abortion are going to turn to Illinois for their abortion care,” Kirkwood said. “We have to continue to expand access to make sure we’re here for them and not add to the difficulty and trauma they’re already experiencing.”
As the question looms over the country’s head regarding the future of reproductive rights, Mary Jane Maharry, Marketing and Communications Lead at Planned Parenthood of Illinois, affirmed that the Illinois Reproductive Health Act will ensure the right to an abortion, regardless of the potential overrule of Roe v. Wade.
However, Kirkwood noted that with some of Illinois legislators being pro-life, there is still potential for the state to follow suit and adopt more restrictive laws in the future.
“We cannot take the right to an abortion for granted, even here in Illinois,” Kirkwood said. “The Texas law shows that, despite the fact that more than 70 percent of all Americans support Roe v. Wade, all it takes is having a majority of anti-choice politicians in the state legislature to completely strip that right away. Illinois used to be a more anti-choice state than Texas, which had been fairly progressive, and it’s possible for us to go back.”
The pro-life vs. pro-choice debate has created a rift between South students on their views towards the Texas abortion law and the possibility of such ban reaching Illinois. Tomety disagrees with the newly-passed Texas legislation, stating that it infringes on womens’ rights and does not consider the real-life scenarios that may lead to someone receiving an abortion.
“We need to [ask] ‘What if that woman isn’t ready to be a mother?’” Tomety said. “‘What if they are not in the emotional or financial situation to be able to have a child?’ People are always [saying] ‘adoption’ but that is nine months of your body being changed and maybe you don’t want that. My heart cries for Texan women.”
On the contrary, sophomore Mateusz Przybylak supports the expansion of the Texas abortion law to other states, believing that having the law in place will deter risky sexual behaviors.
“The problem is that most women will resolve to abortion, however, I believe that this is wrong,” Przybylak said. “It is inhumane. People should learn from their mistakes; they should face the consequences of their actions. There are no shortcuts in life. That is why, with this ban in place, people will think twice before doing something risky. It won’t happen at once, but with patience and time, people will change.”
Illinois currently remains a safe haven to those seeking an abortion, however, Maharry forsees the adoption of the Texas law throughout the country, not discounting Illinois from being a part of such change.
“This Texas law sets a dangerous legal precedent and could make a path for our neighboring states to override people’s constitutional rights,” Maharry said. “Because the Supreme Court let this stand, we can expect similar laws across the country.”