Riverside senior Leiko Takahashi never wanted to care about Texas and Mississippi.
But Takahashi, who is also in the Young Democrat’s Club, can’t help but follow the news about changes in state abortion laws that could eventually impact the entire country.
“I think it’s nobody’s business what women do with their bodies,” Takahashi said. “You can be pro-life for yourself and still be pro-choice. I feel [new legislation] encapsulates both arguments but its really just important women have control over what they do.”
On September 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a senate bill which prohibits any person from having an abortion later than six weeks into the pregnancy – before most women know they are pregnant. This new law also goes for victims of rape and incest. The first legal regulations — which should make the law harder to stop — are ready to be tested in court.
On November 29, the Supreme Court also decided to uphold Mississippis’ law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Supreme Court has never allowed states to ban abortion before roughly 24 weeks, when a fetus can survive outside the womb.
Abortion laws are nothing new. But this time Texas has added in a clause that anyone can be sued who helped someone have an abortion in Texas in the past six weeks, whether they live in the state or not, witness the incident happen, or even whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that it happened. Mississippi’s law, however, would be enforced by the state instead of the citizen-enforcement approach.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case, declared a nationwide right to abortion. However, it is now being challenged in a court that has a 6-3 conservative majority thanks to former President Donald Trump’s three appointments – Neal Gorsuch, John Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
A ruling that overturned Roe and the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 would lead to outright bans or severe restrictions on abortion in 26 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“I just don’t want there to be a time when people can’t get an abortion at all,” Takahashi said. “and right now in Texas there is, so it’s really scary.”
Takahashi also believes other states should not follow Texas and Mississippis lead and restrict abortion rights.
“It’s just not their business. People get abortions for their own personal reasons, [sometimes] just to save their own lives when the pregnancy could put their life in jeopardy” she said. “Some people are not prepared to be mothers. It’s just really important that they have the right to choose.”
Takahashi said that there are no exceptions to what she believes.
“Unless it’s really late in the pregnancy and [the mother] changes her mind,” she said. “I could see an argument, but it’s still up to the mother.”
In a Pirates’ Hook survey, four responders listed themselves as pro-life, but none of them accepted an interview request.
Elsewhere, however, many Republicans have vocally supported the prospect of stricter abortion laws. In Pennsylvania, GOP gubernatorial candidates Charlie Gerow, Lou Barletta, Guy Ciarrocchi, and Joe Gale have all expressed hope that the Supreme Court justices rule in favor of upholding the Mississippi statute.
“I’m very, very grateful to my birth mother for doing the right thing,” said Gerow, who was adopted. “I’m incredibly blessed she made that decision.”
If he becomes governor, Gerow says he would sign a law to make abortion illegal after a baby’s heartbeat can be heard.
“I’m a great believer in the blessings of life,” he said.
“Abortion takes the life of a child, who if it were allowed to be born, would have all of the rights of any other human being,” said Barletta, a former Pennsylvania congressman. “At that point, killing the baby would rightly be called murder.”
“I am hopeful the Supreme Court will uphold the Mississippi law,” said Ciarrocchi, “At a minimum, we should all agree that viability is now much, much earlier due to scientific advances. So, Roe is now not only bad law, it’s based on very, very outdated science. It is time for Roe to be replaced.”
“Allowing the most defenseless and voiceless among us to be murdered in the womb is unacceptable, unethical, and unforgivable,” said Gale. “Under my leadership, Pennsylvania will be a sanctuary state for innocent unborn human life.”
In North Carolina, Democratic governor Roy Cooper has offered a very different opinion. In a veto message he made on June 25, 2021, after rejecting a measure barring women from getting an abortion specifically due to a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome in a fetus, he cited privacy concerns, arguing the bill would have made it difficult for patients to get medical information and have honest conversations with their doctors.
“This bill gives the government control over what happens and what is said in the exam room between a woman and her doctor at a time she faces one of the most difficult decisions of her life,” Cooper said. “This bill is unconstitutional and it damages the doctor-patient relationship with an unprecedented government intrusion.”
Since Cooper took office in 2017, he has vetoed two bills that pro-choice advocates say will limit abortion opportunities. Republicans control both the senate and house of representatives but they do not have the absolute majority needed to overturn Cooper’s veto.
Currently, a person in North Carolina can legally have an abortion. But Texas’ recent law change has triggered more reproductive oppression. Although North Carolina doesn´t prohibit abortion, medical restrictions have prevented many people from accessing this care. Although, unlike Texas, health plans in NC offer coverage for abortions only in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest.
Even with a Democratic governor who supports reproductive freedom, Republican legislators intend to pass as many laws as possible. And as of January 1, 2021, many abortion restrictions were put into place in North Carolina, according to Planned Parenthood, including:
- A patient must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion, and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided.
- The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.
- The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
- A patient must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion.
- The state prohibits abortions performed for the purpose of sex selection.
The Guttmacher Institute states that approximately 46,980 people between ages 15-19 get an abortion in the US. Access to reproductive rights is also an equity issue at the college level. Abortion patients are more likely to be people of color and come from low-income households. Three out of four abortion patients either fall below the poverty line or qualify as low income.
For many high school and college students, the right to reproductive autonomy depends on where they go to school. Out of all U.S. states, California and Texas have the most college students. California also has the most high school students. And the states take opposite approaches to reproductive rights. California’s law specifically points to the harm caused by limited access to clinics.
“Students seeking early pregnancy termination… face prohibitively expensive travel, often without reliable means of transportation, to a clinic that may require hours of travel from their campus,” Texas Senate Bill 8 states. “These financial and time burdens negatively impact academic performance and mental health.”
As of 2019 28,450 abortions have been performed in North Carolina. That number includes abortions performed on out-of-state residents, but does not include abortions performed on North Carolina residents in other states.
Takahashi believes for this reason it’s important high schoolers follow changes in policy.
“I think everybody should be keeping up with at least the current events,” she said. “These things are effecting us now because North Carolina is lucky enough to have several abortion clinics but if North Carolina follows suite…to become more like Texas there goes all of our abortions.”