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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

There are days that I have asked the question: Am I Black first or am I a woman first? The reality is that the world sees my skin before it notices my gender. I think Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, Sojourner Truth would have agreed. Nonetheless, race and gender are two issues that this country has struggled with since its inception. If truth be told, they’ve often handled both badly.

The mere possession of two X chromosomes has been used to determine voting rights, land ownership, wages, housing and judicial treatment. The mere possession of too much melanin/skin pigmentation has been used to determine voting rights, land ownership, wages, housing and judicial treatment. See what I did there?

Black people and females have had to fight for every constitutional and civil right we tenuously hold today. Often treated as second class citizens in our own country, for no other reason than our race or gender, we are consistently subjected to unequal treatment. In acknowledging those parallels, Texas legislators have again reminded us that reproductive rights are the difference in the shared experiences of those adversely impacted by race and gender, with the passage of SB8.

Known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” SB8 limits abortion to a time when roughly 85% of women may not know they’re pregnant yet. Under the bill, an abortion could not be performed after a fetal heartbeat has been detected or after six weeks of pregnancy. The law basically halts Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion in the United States, in its tracks. SB8 has removed enforcement of the bill from the state to everyday lay people. When the anti-abortion-stacked U.S. Supreme Court was requested to stop the law from taking effect, it basically said changing the enforcement mechanism was just the loophole anti-abortion activists had been searching for.

SB8 doesn’t go after the person having the abortion, after all abortion is still LEGAL in America. The bill penalizes those that knowingly help a female secure an abortion. The bill makes it illegal to help a woman/girl do something that is legal in this country. On its face, the premise is absurd. More alarming, is that SB8 allows anyone, from anywhere in the country to sue someone who “aids and abets” a woman/girl in securing an abortion in Texas. If their lawsuit is successful, they could be awarded $10,000 and attorney fees.

While we have male allies in the fight for reproductive freedom, it is our bodies that are on the line. Women will not be dragged back into an era of back alley medical care and intimidation for the choices we make. We have to advocate for ourselves and fight for our children. One in 9 girls, under the age of 18, experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult. Those assaults can result in a pregnancy. SB8 does not take rape or incest into consideration in its continued obfuscation of abortion law. Without doubt, other states will follow Texas’ lead. Without doubt, women are ready for this fight!

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