On May 19, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, signed the heartbeat bill. This bill is effective in September and bans abortion when the fetal heartbeat is detected. This law makes it illegal for women to get abortions 6 weeks after pregnancy and makes no exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Other states including Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana have also passed this anti-abortion bill. The majority of the remaining states uphold the standard set by the Supreme Court’s Roe decision which states that abortion is legal until the fetus develops the ability to survive or live successfully. This generally happens in the first 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. The states passing anti-abortion bills like the heartbeat bill are essentially challenging Roe V. Wade, the 14th amendment in the US constitution that protects the right for a woman to choose whether or not she will have an abortion. If states can pass these kinds of bills that challenge rights established by the constitution, what’s to stop other states from passing bills that oppose other constitutional rights?
There are many things wrong with the heartbeat bill, one of them being that most women do not even know they are pregnant within the first 6 weeks as signs like nausea and fatigue do not start until after 6 weeks have passed. However, the most concerning part about both Texas’ and Alabama’s anti-abortion bill is how it bans abortions for victims of rape and incest. This promotes rape culture as Alabama’s bill would punish doctors who perform abortions for victims of rape more than rapists themselves. According to Alabama’s anti-abortion law, doctors can be punished with up to 99 years in jail while the maximum sentence a second degree convicted rapist can be charged with is 20 years in jail. Furthermore, most rapists do not even get the maximum sentence as a study done by the U.S. Department of Justice found that, on average, the time served for convicted rapists was 5.4 years. These anti-abortion laws passed by states like Texas, Georgia, Alabama and others emphasize where the state governments priorities lie. Among all victims, 16-19 year-old girls are 3 times more likely to be raped and if they get impregnated through rape, these girls would be forced to have the child and care for it because of these laws. These girls would be forced to give up all their dreams that most likely did not involve being a teenage mom because of a man with no self-control and a government who feels they have the right to regulate women’s bodies. Victims would be punished more than the rapist himself. The state’s priority is obviously not to protect victims or hold rapists accountable. It is once again clear that the state’s concerns are not on the side of women.
The concept of rape culture itself was made possible due to the deeply rooted misogyny and sexism in society. These laws are proof of misogyny that is present in the government as men somehow believe they are entitled to deciding what women should and should not do with their own bodies. It has never really been about the children and the government has shown this through the lack of concern for the babies once they are born. The state governments that pass the ban on abortion laws often have the highest infant mortality rates. Alabama has an infant mortality rate of 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. It is clear that anti-abortion laws are yet another way men in the government assert their “dominance” over women.