New Texas abortion law puts pregnant teens at risk


Bailey Niles

The new abortion law has sparked protests around the country.

Isabel Young and Yness Martinez

SB-8, Texas’s latest addition to a long line of restrictions on safe abortion, introduced some of the harshest restrictions on reproductive rights in the country currently. Not only are abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy barred even in cases of rape or incest, the judicial prerogative falls in the hands of vigilante citizens, who now have the ability to sue those who break the restrictions for up to $10,000. The law targets the most vulnerable members of society, including pregnant teens, and gives anti-abortion advocates the power to seek out their own justice for profit.

Texan conservatives’ iron grip on reproductive rights was suffocating for vulnerable citizens even prior to the introduction of the new law. Those seeking abortions were already forced to jump through a number of uncomfortable hoops in an already distressing system, designed to complicate the process unnecessarily as a deterrent. For those without the means to fulfill or even fully understand these requirements, SB-8 only makes it more difficult to access safe abortion. 

For pregnant teenagers, abortion is now near impossible. Even in a utopian society with lifted restrictions on abortion, the logistics would still be complicated tenfold for teens. Whether due to the social implications of teen pregnancy or an inability to drive or obtain safe passage to a clinic, a teenager who chooses to terminate a pregnancy is already at a disadvantage. With SB-8’s restrictions, even if a teen knew they were pregnant in the first week, which is already incredibly unlikely, they would only then have five weeks to figure out their next steps. And with the restrictions already in place before SB-8, it’s very likely they simply wouldn’t be able to fit everything around school and daily life in that time. 

A high percentage of pregnant teens have to go through the process alone, and under this new, oppressive system, they’ll have to navigate an even more difficult process by themselves. This simply isn’t feasible for a teenager. Not to mention that the lack of exclusions for cases of rape and incest leaves those who are even less likely to ask for help in the dark.

Placing the power of litigation in the hands of private citizens is yet another weight piled on the shoulder of pregnant teens. While before the new law vocal anti-abortion activists were restricted to protesting outside Planned Parenthoods and lobbying for their agenda, they now have the power to bring real consequences to at-risk individuals. When a teenager seeks an abortion after six weeks, they are opened up to the possibility of a lawsuit from religious or conservative organizations, or even particularly vitriolic individuals acting alone. When the majority of teen pregnancies are in poorer areas of the country and the state, the reality of an at-risk teenager being sued over a necessary health decision becomes even more horrific.

Everyone deserves safe access to necessary healthcare. What Texas needs is less restrictions on abortion, not more. Lawmakers should lift the harshest barriers to abortion and focus instead on the safety of the state’s most vulnerable population. By passing SB-8, not only does Texas endanger teenagers, it also plunges the state into a dystopia of vigilante justice and the systematic destruction of bodily autonomy.