Texas Bill Encourages Abortion ‘Bounty”, Paxton Smith, & The Invisible Women of Iraq
Texas Bill Encourages Abortion ‘Bounty” to Restrict Women’s Right to Choose
By Julia Carroll
Texas legislatures are taking measures to instill restrictive Anti-Abortion laws in the state. In May of 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed the Texas Heartbeat Act – Senate Bill 8 of the 87th legislature. The bill outlaws abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs during the sixth week of pregnancy. Many southern states have proposed or passed the Heartbeat Bill, which serves to restrict women’s fundamental rights and limit their power to make decisions about their own bodies.
Recently, in an attempt to intensify the effects of the bill, the Texas legislature introduced a “bounty” that encourages citizens to sue those in violation of the Texas Heartbeat Act. Those found guilty of performing or aiding in an abortion could face a $10,000 fine. The law allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe may have been involved in helping a pregnant person get an abortion. Along with doctors or health care providers, religious leaders who provide spiritual counsel to a woman considering an abortion may be targeted. Friends providing physical or financial aid to the pregnant woman could be found liable, even the person who drove them to their appointment. Unsurprisingly, Black and Latinx communities will be disproportionately impacted, as nearly two-thirds of all Texas abortions in the last five years involved Black and Hispanic women, according to the Washington Post.
The bill also comes at a great threat to healthcare providers and advocates such as Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and several others; they have all filed lawsuits to block the law. Planned Parenthood president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson spoke up regarding the dangers of the bill she calls unconstitutional: “they’re trying a new tactic: giving complete strangers the power to sue anyone who provides or helps someone get an abortion. This new law would open the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits designed to bankrupt health centers, harass providers, and isolate patients from anyone who would treat them with compassion as they seek out health care. The cruelty is the point—and we will not let it stand. Planned Parenthood will do everything in our power to fight S.B. 8 in court and ensure that every Texan is able to make their own decisions about their health and their future.”
The passing of this law increases public anxiety about the solidity of Roe v. Wade which secures access to safe abortions without excessive restriction. Bills such as these reveal the controlling and misogynistic atmosphere in politics today and highlight the lack of proper prioritization in government. We must find a way to protect women’s rights and start taking steps towards a better future that entails equity.
Meet Paxton Smith: Valedictorian who uses her platform to speak on Abortion Rights
By Khushi Bhatt
As we all know, high school graduation is a once in a lifetime milestone. At many high school graduations, the class Valedictorian has the opportunity to congratulate their peers and reflect on the class’ shared experiences. However, 18-year-old Paxton Smith took her chance at the podium to address more pressing issues. While on the stand Paxton chose to ditch her pre-approved speech and instead express opposition to the Texan anti-abortion bill that was recently signed.
The bill was signed into law by Texas governor Greg Abbott on May 19th 2021, a mere 11 days before Smith’s graduation. The Valedictorian was set to speak on media consumption but she said she “couldn’t stop thinking about the bill” and so, with the three minutes she had, she chose to take a stance. The “heartbeat bill” prohibits abortions as early as 6 weeks after conception, when many people don’t even know that they are pregnant. Not only does the new law restrict abortions, it poses a threat to anyone who helps a women get her child aborted past the 6 week period. Healthcare workers and friends of the person aborting a child risk being sued for up to $10,000 by any witnesses. Smith explained, “when the heartbeat bill was passed, I was very, very upset, I was in the band hall, and I was trying to write an essay for a psychology project that was due. And I couldn’t focus because I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the heartbeat bill and how upset it made me. And so I decided to start writing out some of those thoughts on my Google Doc, and I think it was then that I realized that that was what I should talk about [at graduation].”
Smith says that her original script took her around two weeks to write, the new one only took two days. She reveals how she only told her parents about her plan because she didn’t want any of her friends to possibly tip off the district. Her biggest worry was having her microphone being cut during her speech, but luckily that didn’t happen. We see her all jittery and nervous as she walks up to the stage and starts off “As we leave high school, we need to make our voices heard.” With each sentence, Smith’s voice grew stronger and more powerful. “I have dreams and hopes and ambitions. Every girl graduating today does. And we have spent our entire lives working towards our future. And without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us.” she spoke with distinction.
(To watch Paxton Smith’s whole speech click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpJkErsb7UE )
After stepping off the stage Paxton’s speech gained traction nationwide and figures like Hillary Clinton and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke tweeted about their support for Smith’s speech. Smith received her diploma and is off to the University of Texas at Austin in the fall.
The Invisible Women of Iraq
By Natasha Gilman
The humanitarian crisis in Iraq is “one of the world’s worst”, as described by the United Nations. The minority groups of Iraq have been specifically targeted by the country’s most prominent terrorist group, ISIS. These targeted individuals include Yazidis, Christians, Sabean-Mandeans, Turkmen, Kaka’i, Shabaks, and women in general. The terrors of this genocide include an estimated 30,000 civilians killed, 55,000 injured, and 3 million displaced.
To combat the terrible conditions in Iraq, the Iraqi parliament instituted the Yazidi Survivors Bill, which officially recognized the genocide and aimed to provide support for those affected. The passage of this bill marks a huge breakthrough for addressing the hostile climate of Iraq.
Nadia Murad, a human rights activist, noted in a tweet, “today’s passage of Iraq’s Yazidi Survivors Bill is an important first step in acknowledging the gender-based trauma of sexual violence & need for tangible redress. Implementation of the law will need to be focused comprehensively supporting & sustainably reintegrating survivors.”
The survivors of the atrocities of Iraq still face major challenges in their recovery. Despite material aid from the government, many continue to suffer as they recover mentally from trauma. While the Yazidi Survivor bill offers some relief to ISIS victims, much more work and support is necessary to alleviate the pain of many survivors and current victims.
Many women in particular continue to grapple with mental health struggles prompted by the scarring experiences imposed by ISIS, as many women were held captive as sex slaves. One survivor of this cruelty, Seran, recounts her story of being a Yazidi girl captured by an ISIS fighter. Despite making a remarkable escape from her captor, Seran notes she still experiences “a lot of pain.”
To support the psychological disparities at hand, some nonprofits have begun to raise support, awareness, and money for the cause.