Texas Abortion Act, Our Very Own Witch Trials

Nora McGuire

Protesters outside of the Capitol in Austin, Texas, holding signs at the Women’s March ATX. Credit: Chelsea Purgahn for The Texas Tribune

Despite having come a long way from burning and hanging women who have been accused unjustly of partaking in witchcraft, the being accused unjustly still remains. September 1, 2021, the Texas heartbeat act law  came into effect, and this law makes it so someone can report a person without even having evidence that they had an abortion. This law made it so that abortion isn’t legal after a fetus’ heartbeat can be heard (usually around six weeks from a patient’s last menstrual cycle). This law is problematic and extremely harmful for three reasons. 

First, it puts it up to the citizens to uphold the law. According to the legislation, any citizen  who reports and illegal abortion will get the reward of $10,000 in the case that the prosecutor wins the civil case. 

Another reason this is comparative to the witch trials is because there is no part of the legislation fighting against serial tariffs. Anyone could report a witch and could report as many witches as they wanted, and in the same way anyone can report a defendant whose had an abortion, and they can report dozens to hundreds of cases and people.

The prosecutor can also accuse with no evidence. Meaning that neighbors can accuse other neighbors and colleagues can accuse their other colleagues, leading into a witch trials situation. You see, back when the witch trials were raging on, anyone would accuse anyone over the smallest inconvenience. And because the accused didn’t have any proof of not being a witch, they would be executed. The same is with the defendant. As stated in section f-4 of the legislation, as long as the defendant has proof of not having an abortion or having an abortion before the two weeks deadline, they would be safe from prosecution. But if they didn’t have any evidence they would most likely be prosecuted. 

Another reason this law is harmful: most people don’t even know they’re pregnant before the deadline. The law puts a ban on abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat is detected. This can be as early as 6 weeks. Now, according to American Pregnancy.org, most people find out they’re pregnant between 4-7 weeks. This leaves people only a few weeks to: book an appointment for an ultrasound, book an appointment for an abortion, and actually have the abortion. And some women are approved for an abortion but end up not being able to have it because a heartbeat was detected minutes before their abortion. 

Because of the people not being able to recognize their signs of pregnancy until potentially too late, they can end up having to go to great lengths to get their abortion. Thanks to an interview done by the New York Times, “They Don’t Understand That We’re People Too, we hear stories of women who have to travel hours and hours to get to an abortion clinic outside of the state. Most abortion clinics near the outside of Texas are booked because of woman needing to get abortions. The problem with them being booked is more and more poeple have to have their abortions scheduled weeks out. This gives more and more time for the fetus to grow, making the abortions cost more. So ontop of the already expensive trip out, they have to pay more money for their abortion due to the appointment being scheduled so far out. 

Finally, a large reason why this is a problematic law is because of financial and welfare problems. Families who cannot afford to have another child and can’t afford to drive all the way out of state and have an abortion are in a finacial crisis. The welfare programs in Texas are very exclusive, take a long time to apply for and get into, and even then they are temporary. There are multiple requirements and obstacles you have to meet in order to apply for welfare programs and safety nets, which makes having a child a hard circumstance. There’s always the argument of “put it up for adoption”, but even that causes a mental and physical strain on the family. And if the family is found guilty of having an abortion inside the state of Texas they can have a minimum monetary fine of $10,000.

This law can and potentially will cause an increase in abortion bounty hunters and harmful self-preformed abortions. Because of all these requirements and prohibitions in the law, it’s harmful and can cause mental, physical, and financial strain on multiple families.  And as there was once a law harming women unjustly and deeming them witches, now, this heartbeat law allows citizens to go against their neighbors and gain compensation for reporting an abortion, something that should be a constitutional right.