Newest anti-abortion laws spark tough discussions


Illustration credit: Stella Sears-Bicknell.

Ezra Bergson-Michelson, Staff Writer

Riding on a wave of new anti-abortion legislation passed throughout the South, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas signed Texas Senate Bill 8, one of the most restrictive pieces of abortion legislation since Roe v. Wade. The law creates a system for civilians to pursue lawsuits of up to $10,000 against those involved in abortions after six weeks which, according to the Maternal Child Health Journal, is before most women are aware of pregnancy and have the opportunity to seek medical care.
Over the last 20 years, the United States has seen a radical shift in policy away from abortion rights. According to the Guttmacher Institute, state-level abortion legislation is more hostile than has been seen in the last two decades. The last two years have brought about a wave of extremely restrictive abortion laws banning abortions on levels not seen since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Many such laws are working their way through the court system.
Kristjiana Gong, one of the teachers of Urban’s Constitutional Law class, discussed the legality of the law. “It has the worst legal precedent,” Gong said. “The last time we had any kind of legal statute that was involved in compensating or punishing folks who were non-law-enforcement in the enforcement of laws goes back to the Fugitive Slave Act.”
Among fears about the law, Gong was also concerned with the divisions this law could encourage. “Anytime that you encourage snitching, tattle tales, bounty hunting, it’s meant to create a police state,” Gong said, “I worry more about the ways in which… [it] will make it really hard to have trust, camaraderie and partnership amongst people.”
Charisse Wu, 12th grade dean and teacher of the History of Women in America (WUSH) class at Urban, has a similar concern. “The chilling effect that it’s intended to have will happen,” she said. She added that the law is already harming Texans by confusing residents about their eligibility and making abortion clinics inoperable.
Maddie Thorpe, co-leader of Students for Women’s Equality and Rights (SWEAR) has been facilitating discussions on this new abortion law in SWEAR meetings. “I think [discussing is] important… having a space to share our frustrations and feelings, because it really is terrifying.”
Gong is planning to share her views on this law during class discussions. “I think I am starting to… be more honest about saying [that] I definitely have an opinion about this, but it doesn’t negate my ability to engage with and identify what can be compelling about arguments that exist that are not the ones that I am an advocate for,” Gong said.
Gong desires a more open approach in the classroom. “I would love for us to approach things with more curiosity and less confidence, and to be asking questions,” said Gong.
Wu also spoke to the importance of curiosity. She particularly wants the Urban community to consider the stories of the women who are directly impacted by this law, and what those people are asking for. She emphasized the need for empathy, especially in a topic of such extreme emotional weight. “This is not a celebratory political issue on any side,” Wu said.
“I once had a group of students in WUSH realize that reproductive freedom is about the future,” Wu said. “It’s about creating a future literally, of another generation.”