3 US states tighten abortion restrictions
By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Aug 25 (EFE).- The conservative US states of Texas, Idaho and Tennessee on Thursday put laws into effect tightening abortion restrictions, specifically banning abortion from conception in Tennessee and Idaho and increasing the penalties against abortion providers in Texas.
The laws almost fully ban abortions and, in some cases, establish prison terms of up to life behind bars for doctors who perform abortions.
This is a new step in the “war” on abortion launched on the state level after the US Supreme Court in June withdrew federal protection of that right, a ruling that has left more than 20.9 million women of reproductive age without access to the procedure in their states of residence.
The new laws do not change the situation on the ground in Texas, Idaho and Tennessee, which have already prohibited abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy and where the majority of clinics have stopped providing abortion services after the Supreme Court ruling.
However, the laws do establish or increase fines and prison terms for medical personnel in an attempt to intimidate them, according to organizations defending women’s right to the procedure.
Specifically, the Texas law establishes that abortion is illegal in the state from the moment of conception and sets penalties of up to life in prison for anyone performing the procedure, in addition to fines that can amount to $100,000.
Dr. Bhavik Kumar, who has worked in Texas since 2015, told EFE that the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison has a strong impact on him and on his team, which have provided abortions.
Saying that the new law is something that traumatizes and produces a lot of stress for him and his staff, Kumar added that it will not change the work that his Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston performs, that organization operating the main network of US sexual and reproductive health centers.
Texas currently has three laws in force that ban abortion: the one that went into effect on Thursday, another dating to 1925 and one prohibiting abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy which entered into force in September 2021, before the high court revoked the Roe v. Wade ruling that had protected the right to abortion in the US since 1973.
Behind the legal web, the only exception remaining if a woman wants an abortion is for cases where the life of the mother is in danger.
However, doctors in states with similar exceptions are having difficulties defining what is meant by “danger” to the life of the mother and, out of fear of reprisals, they are having to get legal advice from medical centers’ attorneys, which delays the process.
In fact, the state of Texas has been trying to restrict that exception even further in cases where the life of the mother may be in danger and on Wednesday a judge blocked the attempts of the Joe Biden administration to allow abortions in medical emergencies.
The federal government wants doctors to be able to intervene at the slightest sign that the mother is experiencing a medical emergency, but Texas wants them to do so only when there is no doubt that the mother’s life is at risk, a requirement that could have harmful consequences for the woman.
In Idaho, a similar debate took place, but in that case another judge held for the federl government, determining that the life of the mother must be protected and blocking the entry into force of a part of the law establishing prison terms for doctors who try to respond to a medical emergency.
Despite that ruling, the law that entered into force in Idaho almost completely bans abortion and allows no exceptions, not even for cases of rape or incest.
Idaho already had prohibited abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy but the new regulation restricts that right even further and will contribute to the fear and confusion felt by patients, according to what Rebecca Gibron – the executive advisor for the Planned parenthood affiliates in Idaho and Washington state, which attend to some 38,000 patients – told EFE.
In Tennessee, the rule that entered into effect is very similar to an almost complete ban on abortion, with exceptions only if the mother is going to die if she does not terminate her pregnancy.
As a result, the only thing the Tennessee abortions clinics can do now is to put patients in contact with medical services in other states and help them find transportation there or funds to pay for the trip, Ashley Coffield, the CEO for Planned Parenthood in Tennessee, told EFE.
According to Coffield, those who will be impacted the most are patients with fewer resources, in particular Hispanics and African Americans.