Texas’ Gov. Rick Perry has thrown his support behind a potential 20-week abortion ban in the state, but his office told Rewire that he’ll leave it up to legislators to determine the appropriate punishment for women who get later-term abortions.
After Perry’s appearance at a Houston crisis pregnancy center last week, Rewire asked his office whether he supported any exceptions to the yet-to-be-proposed law, such as for cases of rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant person. His office’s answer: “those details will be worked out by the Legislature.”
We also wondered: what does Gov. Perry imagine the punishment should be for women who seek abortions after 20 weeks, were Texas to ban such procedures?
His office responded not with the usual anti-choice dithering about punishing doctors instead of abortion-seekers, but with a clear admission that punishment for these women is in order: “That will also be decided by the Legislature.”
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What, indeed, might be the appropriate punishment for the southeast Texas single mother of seven children who sought an abortion at 21 weeks? Or the San Antonio woman, 20 weeks pregnant, who’s trying to leave an abusive relationship? Or the college junior from Oklahoma who is picking up extra shifts in hopes of paying for her abortion at 21 weeks?
These are the stories from real people who have contacted the Lilith Fund, a Texas-based non-profit that helps women find funding for safe, legal abortion care. If Texas passes a 20-week abortion ban, Texans like these women—women who are likely to have experienced “multiple disruptive events” in the past year, and who are likely to be victims of domestic violence, according to research conducted by the Guttmacher Institute—would be criminals in the eyes of the state.
Lilith Fund president Amelia Long told Rewire that a 20-week abortion ban “unfairly burdens people that are already experiencing some of the worst problems in their lives.”
Long says it’s not the case that women know they want or need an abortion and are “just putting it off and just being lazy about it,” as Perry and his anti-choice supporters seem to believe. “That is never the case with anyone we talk to.”
Instead, says Long, the Lilith Fund hears from women who are in abusive relationships, or from women who initially had a wanted pregnancy but “then something happens that’s a disaster for them,” making the prospect of pregnancy and parenthood untenable. Long characterized Perry’s position as “not acting with compassion.”
Indeed, how compassionate is it to suggest that an unemployed mother of two, a student looking for waitressing jobs who found herself pregnant at 20 weeks after an unsuccessful medical abortion, should pay a fine or serve jail time?
But that’s Rick Perry’s perspective: women who seek abortions after 20 weeks owe a debt to society that must be paid, somehow. It’ll be up to the Texas legislature to decide just how much these mothers, college students, high schoolers and victims of domestic violence owe.