The anti-abortion law recently enacted in Texas reveals a dismal American reality. Texas Senate Bill 8 dictates that through “private civil actions” individuals can sue anyone they suspect of performing abortions for the opportunity to receive $10,000 (Legiscan, “Texas Senate Bill 8,” 05.19.2021). However, the law concerns more than the hot-button topic of abortion: it inflames reactionary contempt between the political parties as an essentially anti-social measure preying on and deepening the extreme division between Americans. By incentivizing civilians to snitch on doctors they believe are performing abortions that under the legislation are illegal, or even on people implicated in aiding and abetting the procedure, the law assumes a lack of meaningful community beyond political affinity in America––and perhaps this premise is well founded.
We seem to have entered a new era of social unraveling, one where no common sense of humanity stands a chance against divisive ideology. While I’m definitely pro-choice, it seems that the ethics surrounding abortion are more unresolved than the polarizing language on each side of the issue would have one believe; it alleges a binary between sexists on the right and murderers on the left. This lack of nuance echoes Americans’ inability to have actual discussions that don’t dissipate into meaningless and inflammatory discourse––where there’s no strong sense of community, there’s no need to strive to understand the opinions of others.
While this state of affairs has proven to strain interpersonal relationships and undermine our natural need for community, this polarization is great for those working in the bipartisan political arena. In this case, the burden rests upon individual Texans, not on the state of Texas; the political elites don’t have to get their hands dirty if the people condemn each other, and for potential profit at that. Texas’ anti-abortion law is pretty despicable all-around, but a particularly insidious element of the policy is has to be weaponizing citizens in order to foment hatred and distrust within their own communities.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, all of this political and legal maneuvering comes at the expense of low-income Texans who lack the time or money to get an abortion elsewhere. This law will therefore have the heaviest impact on teenagers and poor people of color––for those with less resources, the hassle of long commutes and waiting periods for procedures in other states only further codify classism and racism within the state’s legal system (Texas Tribune, “As Texans fill up abortion clinics in other states, low-income people get left behind,” 09.03.2021). Again, as the policy will be enforced through private civil actions, this cynical and unneighborly attitude will be enshrined in people’s individual identities and psyches, not only in the impersonal figure of the State. This is profoundly sad––the law’s machinations incriminate vulnerable people in an uncaring system, using them as pawns to enact destructive policy. It’s hard to see this as anything other than an attempt to further alienate people from their fellow citizens.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court failed to block the law despite its clear challenge to Roe v. Wade (Vox, “Texas’ Radical Anti-Abortion Law, Explained,” 09.02.2021). It’s evident that we can’t fully rely on the government to protect the right to safe and accessible abortions, but we especially can’t rely on it to foster a healthy sense of civil duty that benefits not only ourselves, but our fellow citizens as well. To fight this state-sponsored alienation, the answer must come from outside the political arena, from a place of genuine dedication to others and to our communities.