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New Year New Abortion Protection Laws

Since the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade (1973) Supreme Court case, there have been several states that have instilled abortion protection laws for their citizens and health care providers. One of these laws was signed on September 27, 2023, and is to be in effect January 1, 2024. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a shield law that provides legal protections for health care practitioners located in California, who provide and dispense medication or other services for abortion, contraception, or gender-affirming care to out-of-state patients. This law, otherwise known as SB 345, also prohibits California law enforcement, government officials or government contractors from cooperating with out-of-state prosecution related to abortion, contraception or gender-affirming care.


While the Supreme Court case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), overturned the right to privacy implied by the 14th Amendment for protected abortion as a fundamental right, states across the country moved to establish restrictive approaches (criminalizing or imposing civil liability on those who pursue or provide these services) or protective approaches (expanding access and protecting providers and patients from criminal or civil penalties). Washington state followed the protective approach route, by establishing a shield law, HB 1469, which “establishes in law protection of the provision, receipt, and insurance coverage of protected health care services regardless of the location of the person receiving the services. The law ‘shields’ individuals who provide, obtain, or support reproductive and gender-affirming care.”


With these new abortion protection laws, we are going to see more accessibility when it comes to receiving these health care services, more affordable opportunities as insurance issued or renewed starting January 1 will be prohibited from requiring cost sharing for abortions, which means out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and copayments. The protection of local health care providers ensures their safety from out-of-state litigation, if they are to provide abortion services to patients who reside in states with restrictive abortion laws. However, for those who do not reside within a state that ensures the right to have an abortion, their options are limited to performing their own abortion through other matters and often being forced to having and raising a child in unforeseen circumstances.


Even before the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs, Wade, Texas itself has restrictive laws regarding abortion and those who provide these services can be prosecuted. The Governor of Texas signed a law in May, 2021, that prohibits abortions in Texas, as early as six weeks or after an ultrasound detects, what lawmakers defined, a fetal “heartbeat,” which is way before some women even know they are pregnant. This law creates a civil penalty of $10,000 for anyone performing an abortion, while there is no criminal penalty, it allows any private citizen to sue for the court costs and attorney fees.


Shortly after these laws went into effect, women around the country were directly affected. One example from Dallas, Texas is Kate Cox. This is the first case since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade filed on behalf of a pregnant woman seeking emergency abortion care. Kate asked the court to temporarily block her residing state’s abortion bans, so she could receive proper health care and abortion care. Her pregnancy was diagnosed with Trisomy 18—a condition with multiple structural abnormalities—and with this condition babies have little to no chance of survival after birth, some do not survive past the second or third trimester. Due to Kate’s underlying health issues and undergoing two past C-sections, she would be at an elevated risk for multiple serious medical complications.


As of December 12, 2023, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Kate’s favor in seeking access to an emergency abortion to prevent medical complications. One week before, a lower state court ruled in favor on Kate’s behalf, but within hours, the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Texas Supreme Court to block this order immediately while threatening hospitals with prosecution if they were to aid Kate Cox with an abortion at their facilities. With the information gathered on the new abortion protection laws while shining light on mother’s who seek emergency abortion care, I have also gathered earnest opinions from peers who have shared their thoughts with me on abortion and the newly instated abortion protection bills.


 


The following quotes from my peers are responses to their thoughts on abortion.


 


“I believe abortion should be legal and women should have the right to at least have that option if they wish to do so. There are many reasons for a woman to want an abortion such as not being able to financially support a baby, not mentally ready for the responsibilities, birth control mishap, or being a victim of sexual assault, which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.”


Abortion is “one of those things that should be set in stone and personal opinions or religion should not decide bodily rights.”


“I have always been pro-choice, and I believe anyone who owns a uterus should be able to make decisions about their own body. Abortions are medical procedures that can save lives in some circumstances, and it is horrible that the people in charge fail to recognize that. That option should not be stripped away. We really took a step back in the wrong direction when they reversed Roe vs. Wade.”


“Society has made it so difficult for women—for a woman to take care of herself and her children on her own, but now we can’t even have an abortion, and now it is our fault that we can’t take care of ourselves.”


“I think it should be accessible to all people who can have children and should be covered by insurance. But especially to those where either the mother or baby’s life is in danger.”


“I mean I have children, but I do not want my own children to go through something they do not want because it was not their decision.”


 


The next set of quotes are from the same peers, and what their thoughts are on the new abortion protection laws.


 


“Ensuring health care coverage for abortions is just as crucial as any other health care coverage. Laws like these are important in maintaining the health and safety of low-income high minority populations. In some cases, these laws give people second chances in life rather than guiding them down the path of unpreparedness that could potentially lead to poverty and other neglectful familial and generational traumas. These protections for both providers and patients are a crucial component to preventative health care practices and ultimately cause the economy less damage than would be created playing clean up and having to provide for unprepared and unplanned families.”


“It is great that some states make it so easy and accessible to have an abortion while providing protection to the providers that provide abortions to patients who come from stated where abortion is illegal.”


“I think it is a good idea to make abortions more accessible because many people cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for this procedure which can lead to the birth of the baby in critical conditions because they were not able to afford abortion care.”


By incorporating my peers’ opinions and beliefs about the new legislation, set forth by pro-abortion states, it exhibits their approval for women to have the choice of terminating a pregnancy by the removal of an embryo or fetus. Despite my peers residing in Texas, where abortion is deemed illegal, their support of these new laws demonstrate awareness for legislation in hopes one day it can be overturned for the better.


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