Why Restricting Abortion in Texas Won’t Reduce Abortion
August 7, 2013
A couple of weeks ago, after weeks of protest in Austin and widespread national media attention, the Texas legislature passed a bill, with the strong endorsement of Governor Rick Perry, that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. The bill also places restrictions on abortion clinics—including allowing abortions only to be performed at surgical centers, limits on when and where women can take abortion-inducing drugs and requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Currently, only five of the 42 abortion clinics in Texas meet that requirement. The rest would have to be shut down, unless a court overturns the law.
Similar 20-week abortion bans have already been overturned by courts in other states such as Arizona and Idaho. Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal, dictates that abortions can be performed any time before the fetus is considered viable, which most medical experts consider to be 24 weeks. Not to mention, closing down 37 abortion clinics in a state over 800 miles wide and 800 miles long would force women who are seeking an abortion but don’t have the money for travel expenses to resort to black market drugs—an unfortunate phenomenon that is already occurring—or dangerous abortions not performed by doctors. Many teenagers in particular only work minimum wage jobs, have little to no income and would have trouble traveling 500 miles alone to an abortion clinic if they didn’t have support from their family and friends. This law will mean teenagers will face further obstacles to getting abortion care and may have to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term even if they would rather have an abortion.
Ironically, Texas law doesn’t require teens to learn about contraception in school, they may not know how to use it or access it, which can lead to unplanned pregnancy. In fact, Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country. If the Texas legislature truly wanted to reduce the abortion rate, they would pass laws mandating comprehensive sexuality education and access to birth control, because that would lead to fewer unplanned pregnancies in the first place and therefore fewer abortions. Attacks on the constitutional right to have an abortion won’t result in fewer abortions, but would lead to women and teen girls resorting to dangerous methods to have one.
Despite this, the Texas State Senate rejected amendments that would provide comprehensive sexuality education. Eighty-four percent of Texans support teaching about condoms and birth control in sexuality education classes. The legislature should serve the will of the people and enact comprehensive sexuality education statewide, which would do more to lower the abortion rate than abortion restrictions.