Opinion: Strict new Texan anti-abortion regulation offers perception into the way forward for Georgia

This month Texans practically lost their constitutional right to abortion. Legislation passed as SB 8 prohibits abortion after approximately six weeks of gestation, making it the most regressive reproductive rights law to come into effect in modern American history. The law blatantly disregards Supreme Court precedents such as Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, the decade-long pillars of the constitutional right to abortion, and it points to an alarming turn towards a future without the right to abortion.

Georgia is no stranger to abortion restrictions. The state requires a 24-hour wait period and bans private health insurance policies sold through the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange from covering abortions outside of medical emergencies. Georgia even forbids anyone other than a doctor from physically giving a patient their medication for an abortion by pill. And Georgia passed a six-week abortion ban off Texas: the infamous HB 481 in 2019.

However, with the entry into force of Texas’s SB 8, the US Supreme Court signaled that it intends to overturn Roe next summer if it is due to consider the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Center, which is questioning a new 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi . If that happens, Georgia’s own six-week ban will almost certainly come into effect shortly afterwards.

Even with Georgia’s HB 481 off the headlines, the saga continues. After the court temporarily blocked the law in 2019, many people lost sight of it, comforted by the knowledge that abortion is still legal in Georgia but unaware that the battle was not over yet. In fact, the 11th District Court of Appeals will hear the case later this month. What is happening in Texas right now is heartbreaking, especially as it is a glimpse into the future of Georgia.

These six-week abortion bans are contrary to both reproductive health and our constitutional rights. Pregnancy is considered to have commenced on the date of the last period, which makes four of the six weeks part of the person’s normal menstrual cycle. This is why many people do not know that they are pregnant by the age of six weeks. For the lucky few who discover their pregnancy so early, bans like SB 8 and HB 481 totally give them only a week or two to see a doctor, make a decision, schedule an appointment, and have an abortion are silent about raising the funds and making practical arrangements such as transportation or childcare.

Abortion restrictions do not prevent abortion, they only make it more difficult. Some people will be forced to have pregnancies that they don’t want. Others will seek illegal abortions. Fortunately, the advent of abortion by pill means illegal abortions are much safer medically than they were in the 20th century – but no one should have to break the law to control their own body and future. Many will seek abortion in states where it is still legal, but this route will not be available to those without the time and money to travel and shelter. Our nation’s systemic inequalities mean that blacks and other colored people, LGBTQ + people, and those who struggle to make ends meet are least likely to have the means to travel for legal abortions and significantly fewer opportunities to travel with to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. As is so often the case, the most marginalized groups will suffer the greatest damage inflicted by politicians who know next to nothing about their lives and struggles.

While states base their abortion bans on their supposed respect for human life, this often feigns reality. Georgia has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Black women are at even higher risk and twice as likely to die as white women in the state. Our children are not doing much better: Georgia ranks 38th in the nation for family and child welfare. When these numbers are combined with the government’s refusal to teach full sex education in schools or facilitate access to contraception, the question arises whether these abortion bans have more to do with control than life.

Texas gives a glimpse into the future of Georgia, but that future is not set. Indeed, there is an obvious solution that can protect the rights of Georgians, Texans, and all Americans: Congress must act. Later this month, the House of Representatives will vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit states from enacting medically unnecessary abortion restrictions. We have to ask our MPs to vote for the legislation. After that, the Senate must end the filibuster so that they too can vote for the bill. This may seem drastic, but it is also the prohibition of almost all abortions. If you believe that each of us knows best our needs and circumstances, when you believe our communities are best, when we are all able to make the choices that are best for us and our families, and if you believe abortion should be safe, accessible, and unpunished, then you must call on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.