On September 7, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the so-called “heartbeat law” (SB8). Immediately it unleashed a maelstrom of protests from women’s groups, who criticized the ban as early as six weeks into pregnancy. After six weeks, the new law doesn’t allow abortions even in the case of rape or incest; however, it makes an exception if the mother’s life is in danger. The problem is: It is hard to detect pregnancy before the sixth week. By the time it is noticed, it’s already too late to perform abortion, which the new law prohibits.
Responding to a question about how it would impact victims of rape or incest, Abbott said the state would “employ aggressive tactics to eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.”
“Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets,” Abbott said.
But Democratic State Representative Jasmine Crockett reacted in a tweet, saying: “NEWSFLASH: Rape has been a crime in TX and it still hasn’t been eliminated. There is no magic wand to eliminate any crime!”
It’s interesting to note that in 2019, sexual assaults reported in Texas occurred most frequently in homes and a majority of victims were known to the offender before the assault, according to the latest available data from the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was also reported that there were 14,656 rapes and attempted rapes resulting in 2,210 arrests.
But studies also revealed that the majority of rape victims did not report the crime. In Texas, only 9.2% of victims have reported sexual violence to law enforcement, other studies showed. The reason is that trauma and the immediate trauma and post trauma play a big role in deciding to report or not.
A big problem in investigating rape cases is the huge backlogs of kits that had yet to be tested – 18,955 untested kits! And until they’re investigated, the case stays in limbo. As they say, “Justice delayed, justice denied.”
When Abbott was asked how he planned to carry out his promise to “eliminate all rapists,” he did not respond, which led Democratic State Representative Gene Wu to tweet, “Maybe Governor Abbott should have eliminated rape and incest BEFORE passing an abortion law that didn’t have an exception for rape and incest?” He followed the tweet with another: “Just a reminder — (Texas Republicans): PASSED a law putting a $10,000 bounty on people who help victims of rape with an abortion. DID NOT put a $10,000 bounty on RAPISTS.”
Incidentally, the new abortion law does not allow public officials to enforce the ban. Instead, it allows any private individual to sue abortion providers, staff at clinics or someone who drives patients to receive the procedure. If these individuals are successful in a lawsuit, they can collect at least $10,000 in damages from the defendant, plus reimbursement of legal fees. In other words, anyone who could be seen as aiding or abetting an abortion in violation of the law would make them vigilantes or bounty hunters. The new law created a new market for abortion vigilantism. The new law (HB1515/SB8) makes all abortions after heartbeat detection (about six weeks) illegal. It places the entire mechanism of enforcement in the hands of private citizens in the state of Texas. But it is spreading like wildfire in other states. Pretty soon, there would be “abortion vigilantes” in most if not all the states.
Meanwhile, two people seeking to test the legality of the state’s near-total ban on abortion have sued a San Antonio doctor who said he performed an abortion in defiance of the new Texas law.
Also, the Supreme Court suffered a harsh public beating after polls showed an increasing number of respondents who said they view the High Court as being “too conservative,” with its decision that allowed the controversial Texas abortion law to go into effect, which begs the question: Why didn’t the High Court block the Texas abortion law? In essence, the inaction of the Supreme Court contravenes the spirit of Roe v. Wade; thus, giving thumbs up to pro-life (anti-abortion) advocacy in the country.
The vote reflects the current political leaning of the Supreme Court justices, who are divided between six conservatives and three liberals. However, women’s groups across the country favor Roe v. Wade, which had totally banned abortion for the past four decades. It is therefore anticipated that the Texas abortion law would slowly be replicated throughout the country, state by state, which would eventually allow women’s pro-choice (pro-abortion) rights to thrive. And what would the Supreme Court do? Would it continue to stay away from interfering in state laws that legalize partial or full abortion? With a 6-3 conservative majority, it would take years – nay, decades – to resuscitate Roe v. Wade to its original mandate.