Last September, Texas passed Senate Bill 8, also known as the Heartbeat Act, which bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy or after an ultrasound can detect cardiac activity in a fetus.
In the months since, Texans have experienced a preview of what it’s like to live under the antiabortion laws that took effect (or will take effect within the next 30 days) across half of the country now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
Texas is on track to enact an outright ban by the end of July, banning all abortions—including in cases of rape, incest, and severe fetal abnormalities—from the moment of fertilization, except in some rare cases where the patient’s life is at risk.
But the Heartbeat Act has already wielded dire consequences, forcing many to bear children they don’t want or can’t support financially and causing some to travel hundreds of miles to get the procedure in other states.
This week’s Sunday Reading features stories about two Texas teens whose lives were turned upside down by the Heartbeat Act. The first, out this month from New Yorker contributor Stephania Taladrid, chronicles a 13-year-old’s 700-mile trek to get an abortion in New Mexico. The second, a Washington Post piece published last week from reporter Caroline Kitchener, follows an 18-year-old who found out she was pregnant with twins 48 hours before the act took effect, and ultimately had no choice but to become a parent.
Both stories illustrate the way that forced pregnancies can lead to a cycle of poverty.
The 18-year-old from the Washington Post story who wanted to get an abortion so she could complete community college unintentionally booked an appointment at a clinic designed to dissuade people from getting abortions. She was essentially gaslit and coerced into making a decision that would end up robbing her of her chance to gain financial independence.
And the father of the 13-year-old in the New Yorker piece, who himself became a dad as a teen, had just recently managed to get off public assistance when he was bankrupted by the cost of the trip to New Mexico and the procedure. But the sacrifice was worth it, he said, in the long term.
From the story:
The father understood intimately what teen-age parenthood entailed. Laura was born when he was a high-school sophomore. She was, as he always told her, a wanted child. But, after his relationship with Laura’s mother imploded and he found himself raising their daughter and, later, two younger girls, it had taken him a decade, and at times three jobs, to get his family off public assistance. If Laura had a baby, they might find themselves slipping back into the food-stamp life they’d left behind. More than that, though, the pregnancy threatened a particular dream he had for Laura: that she would press through this hard phase of her adolescence childless, and enjoy some of the fun, silliness, and high-school dance parties that he had missed.
If you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed by the weekend’s news coverage, you might want to put a pin in these stories, but try to loop back to them. These piecess are reminders that teenagers, most of whom can’t vote, will suffer some of the worst consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision.
As a high schooler told me last month: “Roe v. Wade being overturned would lead to a lot of other rights potentially being taken away. And then we’re the ones who are gonna have to rebuild all of that progress if it gets destroyed.”
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Follow Staff Writer Lena Geller on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.