Texas Heartbeat Act matters in Mass

Community members discuss repercussions for abortion rights


David Min and Rahdin Salehian

The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect on September 1, banning all abortions in the state as early as six weeks—as soon as fetal cardiac activity is detected—including for pregnancies stemming from rape and incest but excluding medical emergencies.

When signing the bill into law, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, he sought to save the lives of unborn children.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” he said in a bill-signing ceremony.

After Texas abortion providers challenged the law in an emergency application, the United States Supreme Court refused to block the law in a 5-4 vote. They cited that the act, which allows any private citizen to sue anyone involved in an abortion, raises another legal question not addressed well enough in the application: whether an individual not affected by an infraction has the right to sue in court.

Typically, abortion-rights advocates would sue a state to challenge a restriction to abortion, but in the Texas Heartbeat Act, the lawmakers did not include a state official as the enforcer of the law, so the opponents don’t have someone to sue.

“Planned Parenthood can’t go to court and sue Attorney General [Ken] Paxton like they usually would because he has no role in enforcing the statute.

They have to basically sit and wait to be sued,” South Texas College of Law Houston Constitutional Law Professor Josh Blackman said.

Nandita Aggarwal ’25 said since the law bans legal abortions, many women may resort to dangerous, illegal abortions.

“I think that it’s your body, your right,” she said. “By [legally] banning abortions, you’re not actually banning them; you’re just banning easy access to the safe ones.”

Alexandra Kluzak ’24 said those affected by the law who don’t find a way to get an abortion will face undeserved consequences.

“For the underprivileged individuals forced to have a child and for the children themselves, this law entails a lifetime of poverty,” she said. “The law is a grave injustice to women anywhere in the country but especially to those who are impoverished and do not have the means to raise a child.”

Elaine Mo ’22 said she discussed the ramifications of the law with her history class.

“We talked about how some women may not even know if they are pregnant until after six weeks, so [the law] essentially [takes] away the choice for a woman to get an abortion.”

Sammy Krem ’22 saw holes in the logic of many of the law’s supporters, he said.

“It’s hypocritical that some libertarians are in support of the law, yet they preach anti-government regulations and argue that certain activities are up to an individual’s choice, not government,” he said.

Though she finds the law itself troubling, Upper School English Teacher Akemi Ueda said, she hopes the national attention continues to grow.

“There are a lot of activist groups, nonprofit agencies, judges, and politicians rallying around the issue and trying to get momentum to fight against it,” Ms. Ueda said. “It’s definitely a positive sign, and hopefully that continues.”

She added that this problem is not Texas’ alone.

“It’s definitely dangerous to think of it as a separate issue [and think,] ‘Oh, it’s not our problem in the northeast because we’re far away,’” she said. “It will very likely go to a federal level, and we are a country. Even on a level of empathy, we should be just as concerned with what’s going on in another state as we are on our own.”

Cecelia Wilson ’23, who supports the Texas Heartbeat Act, said she believes positive change can come from open conversations on this topic.

“I hope that the residents of this nation will be more loving and understanding with one another as they engage in conversations about this controversial topic, with an openness to empathize with one another rather than a stubborn mindset and an unwillingness to learn,” she said.

“Everyone is so caught up with being right or with identifying with a certain political group that we’ve forgotten that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and that we all share in many of the same struggles and pain.”

Cecelia said open conversations may be difficult because of varying views on the topic.

“Although I hope this isn’t the case, I think the laws in Texas being placed will create more polarization with the political parties,” she said. “However, I think these laws do need to be set into place because I believe that abortion is a great moral injustice that is taking place right under our eyes and cannot continue. I hope that this means that more conversations open up about the topic and that more laws continue being placed, but I know that there will be major pushback.”

Angus Crafter ’22 doesn’t support the law and said he has hope for ways to push back.

“I’m not sure anything can be done about the law right now since it’s been passed, and the same people are unlikely to backtrack on it, but I think educating people on pregnancies and abortions will stop this from happening in other states and maybe reverse this law,” he said. “The key is education and peaceful protest. I think people can help by spreading the word.”

On October 6, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Texas Heartbeat Act pending the Biden Administration’s lawsuit against it.

Sources: Forbes, Planned Parenthood, The Independent, The New York Times, The Supreme Court, The Texas Tribune