Content warning: This article contains discussions of sexual assault on college campuses and rape.
Imagine living in a world in which someone has taken away your freedom to make choices about your future. This is now a reality in Texas as of Sept. 1. The new abortion law bans virtually all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically around six weeks after conception. Doctors, insurance companies or anyone involved in helping someone get an abortion after six weeks can be sued for $10,000. Anyone who suspects an illegal abortion taking place in Texas, regardless if they live in Texas or not, is allowed to take those involved to court.
Despite upholding Roe v. Wade’s ruling that women have a right to an abortion, the Texas law strips resources from women who are unaware of their pregnancy during these crucial weeks. Instead of saying one can’t have an abortion, Texas is setting a six-week time limit. In 2018, 85–90 percent of the abortions in Texas happened after six weeks when most people are made aware of their pregnancy. As a result, more people are forced into unintended pregnancies.
58 percent of the women that get abortions in Texas are 20–29 years old –– young people just like me. It’s frightening to know that this law applies to other people my age. I, like so many other college women, am still coming into my own. Knowing that people can make choices over my body and future before I have any of that figured out gives me chills. As a college student, this time in my life is about building a foundation for my future, so that one day, when I am ready to start a family, I will be prepared to do so. I still have a tremendous amount of maturing to do before I feel like I’m ready to raise another human being. There are young women my age who do choose to have children, but, this is their choice. The common denominators in both situations are freedom, free will and control over our bodies and our future.
The abortion law has also misdirected our focus away from the reasons why women often seek abortions in the first place. We should consider why access to an abortion at any time during a woman’s pregnancy is necessary. One such reason is the prevalence of sexual assault among young women and more specifically sexual assault on college campuses.
In October 2020, nine girls at Eastern Michigan University said they were all raped by the same man, and Texas State University underreported rape on campus in 2017. As a woman living on a college campus, the sexual assault statistics for this kind of environment make my stomach turn. If someone became impregnated as a result of sexual assault and didn’t find out until the sixth week, they will not only be left with the trauma of the situation; now under this law they would also be stuck in an outcome that was forced upon them.
It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and use resources at our schools like Planned Parenthood clubs. This will help us stay safe and make more informed choices about our sexual health and future. Tools like Planned Parenthood will not eliminate all cases of unintended pregnancies, however, they do provide sexual education, sexual health programming, healthcare services and other resources for students.
Along with utilizing our resources on campus, we should also support activists and women living in Texas who need our help. Seven other states are looking to follow in Texas’s footsteps. Resources are being allocated to enforce abortion bans when they should be focused on reproductive health and agency so that women can make decisions about pregnancy on their own terms. We must contact their legislatures to push back against this law, and direct them to problems like sexual assault on college campuses, resources for young mothers and access to birth control. We can also support by helping advocacy groups, funds and abortion clinics in Texas.
By only focusing on the lack of women’s access to abortions, we see that controlling and taking away freedoms will only lead to suffering and continued division. Rather than creating policies that impact a woman’s access to an abortion, we should equally address the reasons why women seek an abortion. In order to ensure autonomy of women’s bodies, we must protect women across the country from destructive laws like these and from the prevalence of sexual assault that leads many to seek abortion in the first place.