Encouraged by increasingly conservative justice, US states have adopted a record number of anti-abortion measures this year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which specializes in reproductive law, there were 90 restrictions in the first half of the year, exceeding the 2011 total.
One measure, in particular, has caught the nation’s attention: the Heartbeat Act, which will come into effect in September in Texas. Under this controversial state law, anyone can sue a clinic for performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. This happens around the sixth week of pregnancy.
That person – who doesn’t even have to live in Texas or have a relationship with the pregnant woman – can also sue anyone who assisted with the abortion, something unprecedented in the country. The text is vague, but activists believe that the law leaves the possibility, for example, of sanctioning a person for having taken a woman to the abortion clinic, helping to pay the cost of the procedure or even having advised her. .
“It’s an anomaly that subverts our entire legal system,” explains Sonia Suter, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in law and medicine. People go to court when they are injured, he explains. “But what’s wrong with you if someone has had an abortion in Texas?” “
The Heartbeat Act goes even further, as it rewards people who look after each other. Anyone who reports a clinic for having an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy – a time when women usually don’t even know they’re pregnant, by the way – can receive at least US $ 10,000 (today, the equivalent of more than R $ 50,000) in compensation, if the case is successful.
Pro-abortion organizations have already taken legal action to try to overturn Texas law. In the meantime, they are preparing the entry into force of the text in early September.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” says Andrea Ferrigno. She is vice president of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates women’s health clinics in Texas. “The need for an abortion doesn’t go away when you close a clinic,” she says. A small number of women may even decide to travel to other states to terminate the pregnancy, bearing the anxiety and the cost of travel.
By September, however, activists might have an even greater concern: The Supreme Court will be close to reviewing the legal framework that allows abortion in the United States.
Later this year, the court is expected to rule on an anti-abortion measure in the state of Mississippi. The question under consultation is whether a state authority can ban abortions before the fetus can survive outside the mother’s womb – a time known as viability, in the jargon, somewhere around 24 weeks. It can change the rules of the game.
This is because the understanding today in the United States is that the government has a duty to protect the right to abortion before it becomes viable. This was decided in 1973, in a case known as Roe v. Wade, the benchmark for reproductive rights in the country. If the Supreme Court rules Mississippi can ban abortions before that deadline, it’s essentially saying it’s changed its mind after five decades.
And so many states are adopting anti-abortion measures precisely because they think the Supreme Court has changed its mind. With the death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, the court recently bolstered its Conservative majority.
“The very fact that the judges have decided to accept the case indicates that at least four of the nine members of the court are open for hearing,” Professor Suter said. Justice Clarence Thomas has already openly taken a stand against Roe v. Wade.
But there is a gap between the judiciary and the population. An Associated Press poll finds 57% of Americans believe abortion should be legal. 1,125 adults were surveyed from June 10 to 14 this year. “The Supreme Court does not reflect the majority,” Suter says.
“Now that the Supreme Court has a strong anti-abortion membership, we are seeing efforts to review these rights,” said Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at Guttmacher.
States in the south and center of the country are encouraged and therefore adopt more restrictive measures. This explains, he says, the fact that the Heartbeat Act was passed in Texas. “Ten years ago, if you read the text of this law, you would think it would never pass the legislators. But past. “