In news that reverberated across the world, Texas became the first state in the U.S. to ban abortions over six weeks as the much-talked about Heartbeat Bill became law this week . Under the 1973 landmark Roe. v. Wade Supreme Court decision and subsequent rulings, abortions have been legal across the United States until the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy, and in some states, up until birth.
The Lone Star state’s ‘Heartbeat’ law was the first such measure to take effect in almost half a century.
On Wednesday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to reject requests to block the pro-life law. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s liberals whilst Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito voted to reject the requests to halt the controversial law.
As expected, the internet lit up with debates on the Texan legislation, and celebrities taking to social media on Thursday to unleash their fury about the law. Hollywood, of course, knows how to deliver the drama; Actress, comedian and former talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell compared the restrictive pro-life law to a “real version” of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel turned Hulu drama “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“Before this country turns into a real version of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ let’s all get together and stop what’s going on in Texas. Keep abortions safe and legal,” she said on Twitter. “I stand with the women of Texas who have the Constitutional right to make decisions about their health and their own bodies,’ actress Reese Witherspoon told her nearly 3 million followers.
Closer to home, RTÉ News gave the story substantial coverage, but focused mostly on the reactions of those who favour legalised abortion. Neither did they report on what accompanied the restrictions on abortion – a significant raft of measures to help women with unexpected pregnancies.
With social media still ablaze with frenzied outrage, many important points regarding the new Heartbeat Law have been missed completely. From reading the tweets circulating and being shared among millions on social media, for instance, you might get the impression that the Supreme Court just overturned Roe v. Wade. That is not the case. The court did not decide on the law’s constitutionality. Although the reality, is that the law could be overturned by future court decisions, the undoubted success of the Texas strategy has the abortion movement and industry in an unprecedented panic.
What is perhaps most significant, is that amongst all the vitriolic social media posts and dense mainstream media coverage, there is a near-blanket failure on the part of commentators to mention the fact that Texas is also giving major investment to abortion alternatives in light of the decision.
It is revealing that most of the media and impassioned celebrities have chosen to ignore the huge $100 million investment in the Texas Alternatives to Abortion programme. The programme will provide a range of much-needed services, including information and classes on pregnancy, parenting, adoption, and free counselling. Surely, such a programme genuinely promotes ‘choice’ and offers practical answers and real-life solutions in response to the challenges of facing – and responding to – a crisis pregnancy?
“The statewide Alternatives to Abortion program promotes childbirth and provides support services to pregnant women and their families, adoptive parents, and parents who have experienced miscarriage or the loss of a child,” a statement on the website explains.
Life-affirming services also mentioned include material assistance, “such as car seats, clothing, diapers and formula”, and housing and support services through maternity homes for pregnant women. Care coordination is also promised “through referrals to government assistance programs and other social services programs.”
Additionally, a call centre is open for information and appointment scheduling, whilst educational information and life skills and employment readiness classes can be availed of during and after pregnancy.
The inclusive programme is eligible for biological mothers and fathers for up to three years postpartum, the adoptive parent of a child of any age, up to two years after adoption finalization, and by the parent or caregiver of a minor who is a client of the programme. Services are also being made available for parents who have experienced miscarriage or loss of a child.
“These clients are eligible to receive counselling, referrals and other relevant services for up to 90 days after the miscarriage or loss,” it states.
Indeed, the law is already saving babies from abortions. Amy Hagstrom Miller, an abortion worker at Whole Woman’s Health spoke to the liberal Rachel Maddow blog, noting that dozens of abortions are currently being cancelled.
“The vast majority of people don’t know they’re pregnant before six weeks…We had, I think, 55 patients on our schedule at Ft. Worth, and only 5 patients are able to be seen under the new restrictions in Texas.”
The abortion ban and subsequent $100 million funding for abortion alternatives has triggered renewed optimism among pro-life supporters and policy makers. With other states speculated to follow suit, Florida’s senate president Wilton Simpson told reporters that he welcomed the promotion of alternatives such as adoption to prevent abortion.
“Abortion kills children and forever changes the life of the mother, the father, and the entire extended family,” Simpson said in a statement obtained by the Naples Daily News.
“As an adoptive child myself, it’s important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption and prevent abortion; therefore, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida,” he added.
Simpson’s words are telling, and it’s no secret that abortions far outweigh adoptions in the U.S. and across the world. The CDC estimates that there are more than 600,000 abortions performed every year in America, whilst less than 15,000 voluntary adoptions of babies take place. This could be down to failure to give adequate counsel to pregnant mothers about the option of adoption. According to the National Council for Adoption, the referral rate to adoption agencies for both kinds of centres sits at about 1 percent.
The truth is, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the Texas law reflects the scientific reality that a preborn child’s heart begins to beat just weeks after conception. It’s an uncomfortable fact that doesn’t bode well for supporters of legal abortion, but as Texas has shown us all, protecting that heartbeat is by no means a fringe position.
With their substantial investment in abortion alternatives, the state has not only sided with the science and ethics surrounding human development; it has also laid bare the reality that a crisis pregnancy is by no means a problem to be oversimplified; serious, long-term, practical support systems and sturdy alternatives are needed, whether that be through promoting ways to parent or educating on open adoption.
Amongst the near-constant coverage of the Texas Heartbeat Law, these supports should be openly publicised and welcomed as a progressive step forward for mothers and babies. After all, such support systems are so clearly needed. Rather, judging by viral tweets, instagram posts and articles in abundance, they seem to be getting flatly ignored, overlooked and dismissed in pursuit of a hard-line and extreme one-way abortion agenda.