Students’ Opinions on the Women’s Health Protection Act
Disclaimer: The person mentioned that had an abortion in this article remained anonymous due to privacy reasons. There are mentions of rape and maternal death in this article. Reader discretion is advised.
The Women’s Health Protection Act is a bill that is being considered in the Senate that would “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.” It was passed in the House of Representatives with 218 “yays” and 211 “nays” on September 24th, 2021. As of March 3rd, 2022, the bill failed to pass, with 46 yays, 48 nays, and six members abstaining from voting.
If the Women’s Health Protection Act is read and voted upon again and passes in the Senate, it will challenge Texas Senate Bill 8. This bill limits abortion after six weeks of conception, allows for citizens to sue a person for up to $10,000 if they suspect them of giving aid to an illegal abortion, and makes no exception for terminating a pregnancy caused by rape. The only exception is if the person is at risk for death. Senate Bill 8 went into effect in Texas on September 1st, 2021, and has had many challenges to it through the Texas Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court since then. A variety of states have introduced similar laws to Texas’ since SB 8 passed, including Oklahoma, who made abortion illegal this month.
Abortion is one of the most controversial issues in the United States. Women aged 20-24 have the majority of abortions, per the Guttmacher Institute. The issue of abortion primarily impacts college-aged people, especially women or people with uteruses. I wanted to know how Southwestern students felt about the possibility of the Women’s Health Protection Act being passed, so I asked them what they thought.
“I definitely think that the [WHPA] would be a step in the right direction, because it is forcing people in power to at least consider the bill,” freshman Rose Reed said. Carter Duncan, senior, is not in favor of the bill, “I am pro-life.” For Isabel Neumann, junior, she responded, “I believe that it is so f—ing important to be able to have a law that protects abortion nationally.”
For Neumann, abortion being legal and accessible is very important to her. Her close friend, who is a Southwestern student, had an abortion in July 2021. For privacy reasons, I have not included the name of the person who got the abortion. Neumann told me her friend’s story. “Right before my friend had the procedure done, she was still on the fence doing so. But, what made her go through with it was the realization that she was not in the position in her life to give birth and to emotionally and physically care for a child, Neumann said.” Abortion affects Southwestern students personally. Some students are not open to talking about their experiences publicly, because they fear that they will be harassed for it.
For Duncan, he feels differently about abortion.
“I have had people in my life that have gone through an unplanned pregnancy. I would try to point them to other women who have considered getting an abortion or that have had unplanned pregnancies.”
For Neumann, she said, “Your choice will impact you the most. If the people in your life are not supportive of your decision, there are resources to find people that will, or that will listen to you without judgment.”
When I asked my interviewees about how SB8 would affect Texas’ laws on abortion, Reed said, “If people were to have a new law that protects abortion nationally, Texas people may think more about how SB8 violates people’s privacy.” For Duncan, “I think that [SB8] would immediately be challenged, and might be overturned, with time.” For Neumann, “I think that Texas politicians want to keep restricting women’s rights, which makes me worry how much further they will go in restricting women’s healthcare and access to it;” Neumann paused before answering. I believe that that tendency to carefully consider what they are saying before speaking is reflective of how complex the issue of abortion is.
I have many thoughts about abortion, in which could be a whole separate article. For the purpose of this article, I will keep it short. I am pro-choice, and against SB8. I believe that SB8 violates a woman’s (or person with a uterus) privacy and that the government should not be intervening in such a private issue. I believe that banning abortions entirely, like Oklahoma, or severly restricting abortions, like Texas, is atrocious. States that are trying to copy or that have copied Texas’ laws are very concerning to me. I hope that the WHPA will be voted on again soon, and I hope that it passes and challenges anti-abortion laws.
When it comes to considering the opposing view, I asked each person what they would say to pro-life people, or pro-choice people. For Duncan he would want to have a conversation with pro-choice people. “I would want to talk to these people and understand where they’re coming from. I have had this conversation with people at Southwestern before. Regardless of the difference of opinions that me and another person may have about abortion, I still care about the person as a whole,” Duncan commented. For Neumann, “I would encourage people who are anti-abortion to have more empathy. I want them to think about who they are talking to when they say anti-abortion stuff, because they could be talking to someone who has had an abortion.”
When looking at the future of this bill, I asked Reed, “If this bill does not pass nationally, do you think Texas politicians would try to introduce a new bill into Texas regarding abortion?” To this, she responded, “If the W.H.P.A. does not pass nationally, I believe that Texas politicians will be satisfied with having SB8 that already restricts abortion here.” I am not sure what the future of this bill will be, but both pro-choice grassroots organizations and pro-life organizations are anxious to see how it will go into effect if passed.