Would anyone choose to live in a police state that pressures ordinary folks to spy on each other? In a state where defending constitutional and human rights lands activists in prison as subversives?
Under the new abortion restrictions in Texas, the state government is asking citizens to be vigilantes and report any woman attempting to have an abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy, a period where many women do not even know if they are pregnant. The person driving a patient to the clinic may also be reported as an accomplice, and of course, the doctor who terminates those pregnancies. As an incentive, Texas will require that each person connected with the abortion pay $10,000 to the bounty hunter. The more people reported, the better the payout.
Our Constitution guarantees citizens the right to privacy through the 14th Amendment. You would think that Texas, a Republican stronghold, would limit government from overreaching into our personal lives. Conservatives vociferously oppose the government telling anyone how they’re supposed to lead their lives. The rush to halt abortions in Texas is an egregious assault on the personal rights of more than half the population.
According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, only 13% of Texans responded that abortion should never be permitted even in the cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. Nationally, about 60% of Americans support legal abortion according to the Pew Research Center.
Visit Texas or any other southern state trying to criminalize abortion. The federal definition of poverty ranks Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama within the top five states with the greatest childhood poverty; Texas ranks 13th. So, by saving the unborn, these states sentence many innocent babies to living in poverty with little support.
Approximately 75% of women who seek abortions live in poverty or are on low incomes. Most already have children. They cannot afford to raise another child if they have any hope of adequately providing for their families. And even though there has been a flood of Texas women seeking abortions in neighboring states, those that live in poverty have less access to transportation and often cannot afford to take a day or days off from their jobs.
The technical flaws of the Texas anti-abortion law aside, the moral flaws are greater. The Texas law is punitive. It fits the narrative that women who need abortions are 100% at fault because of their wanton sexual behavior. The law does not punish the fathers. Aren’t they equally culpable? Shouldn’t the Texas bounty hunters be identifying and prosecuting them? Apparently not. I guarantee that restricting abortion would not be so popular if men had to pay the price.
Pro-choice advocates focus on the rights of women. It is the mother’s choice of what to do with her body. Once again, it seems incredible that Texas will violate the 14th Amendment by invading the privacy of a pregnant woman. Only women have the right to weigh in on who controls their bodies. In Texas and many other states, men are making these decisions.
Before abortion became legal through Roe v. Wade, almost all research shows that hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions were performed each year in the U.S. Many women died or were permanently harmed by botched procedures with no accountability. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson called the public’s attention to this barbarity. President Nixon recognized the need to protect women and to provide a safety net for unplanned pregnancy. Consequently, the Supreme Court ruled that women have a guaranteed constitutional right to an abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade case in 1973.
This Saturday, Oct. 2, concerned citizens of Carroll County are participating in a March for Choice in downtown Westminster. It is time for women, as well as the men who support them, to stand up for their right to self-determination. Join us.
Henry B. Reiff is a professor emeritus of McDaniel College.