THE BLUE & GRAY EDITORIAL BOARD
On May 19, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed legislation prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. This legislation went into effect on Sept. 1 and is being met with criticism and backlash beyond its Texas boundary. Overall, the immediate question that this legislation asks is what type of precedent will it set for other states, including Virginia. As the editorial staff of The Blue & Gray Press, we stand against this legislation and join the voices of those who are concerned about where this legislation can lead Virginia.
Senate Bill 8 grants almost all private citizens the ability to sue abortion providers and those who offer aid and assistance to those seeking abortions. In accordance with the bill, these suits can only be filed after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill does not account for instances of rape or incest; abortion providers and those who “aid and abet” those seeking abortion can still be met with a lawsuit against them under these circumstances.
While the simple response for many Americans who remain indifferent or neutral on the pro-life versus pro-choice argument would be to seek an abortion prior to a fetal heartbeat detection, many pregnancies have medical professionals detecting a heartbeat during the sixth week. Many women are not aware of their pregnancy status until the fourth week, some even later, leaving them little time to make a decision and schedule an appointment under the new law. As a result, abortions in Texas have been practically banned under the legislation.
One of the most frightening aspects of this bill is how it was able to be passed in the first place. Since Roe v. Wade, many states have attempted to restrict access to abortion early on in pregnancy, but none have been as successful as what is being seen in Texas. Other states have sought to limit and ban access to abortion by enforcing their statutes through criminal charges. Unlike those attempts to restrict abortion access, the Texas legislation relies on individuals suing abortion providers over alleged violations of the law.
The legislation was met with pushback by many pro-choice activists and women’s health clinics. They presented their case to the Supreme Court in hopes of receiving an emergency appeal but in a 5-4 decision, were blocked from emergency relief. As of right now, the law is being upheld in Texas.
What is happening in Texas is worrying for the rest of the nation, including Virginia. Despite being a more liberal state within the last decade, Virginia still has restrictions regarding abortions. As of Jan. 1, 2021, parents of a minor must consent and be notified before an abortion is provided, abortion is only covered in insurance policies for public employees under dire circumstances (rape, incest, life endangerment, fetal impairment) and health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act are only able to cover abortion in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.
While Virginia’s restrictions are liberal in comparison to Texas’s, the precedent being set in Texas is worrying for what other restrictions could eventually be implemented down the line. Ultimately, it is crucial that pro-choice groups in and outside of Texas continue to push back against a bill that aims to restrict the rights of women and their autonomy over their bodies and lives.