What Teens Need to Know About Texas SB 8 and Accessing Abortion

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What Teens Need to Know About Texas SB 8 and Accessing Abortion

Caroline Reilly

If you’re under 18, it's possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to the harmful laws and legal chaos, it's extremely difficult.

UPDATE, October 8: SB 8 was temporarily blocked Wednesday night as part of the Department of Justice lawsuit. Attorneys for Texas have filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit, asking for an emergency stay of the district judge’s order.

It’s been about a month since the Supreme Court more or less put its stamp of approval on Texas SB 8, which bans all abortions after six weeks with no exception for rape or incest, and only allows abortions to be performed after the six-week mark in the case of medical emergency.

To make matters worse, anyone who helps someone get an abortion—from the abortion provider, to the person who drives them to their appointment—can be sued for a minimum of $10,000 by absolutely anyone in the country.

By allowing SB 8 to go into effect, the Supreme Court has set a precedent that any state in the country can pass a similar ban, and while their decision didn’t technically overturn Roe v. Wade, a six-week ban is about as close to an outright abortion ban as you can get.

Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.

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What does this all mean? Especially for young people? We’re here to break that down.

First of all, abortion is still legal in the state of Texas, and in neighboring states like Oklahoma. In fact, it’s still legal in the whole country. That’s the good news.

The bad news is abortion is now incredibly difficult to access in Texas, and that’s especially true for young people, who already faced significant hurdles even before SB 8 went into effect. Statistics show that in Texas, there are 24 births for every 1,000 women between age 15 and 19, and the state has the highest average of repeat teen births. Teen pregnancy and birth present many challenges and are often associated with poor educational and health outcomes.

To be clear, teen pregnancy is not the problem; the problem is barriers to education and care. Language around teen pregnancy and parenting too often is stigmatizing and centered on prevention, but young people, like pregnant people of any age, can be great parents if that’s what they choose and if given the support they need. They should be given resources to make the parenting decisions that are best for them. Texas is doing the opposite.

For starters, in order to have an abortion right now in Texas you have to catch your pregnancy really early; six weeks pregnant is typically two weeks after your missed period. That gives you, at the absolute maximum, a two-week window to get an abortion. But statistically speaking, young people detect their pregnancies later, and this makes sense. It takes a while to understand your cycle, and no matter what age you are, there are so many things that can make your period late–changes in diet, sleep, stress, or environment can all delay a period or make it start early.

Texas is one of 37 states that require young people to either involve a parent or obtain a judicial bypass to access abortion, which means that young people who can’t get a parent to approve their abortion have to go to court. That delays the abortion even more. Now let’s make one thing clear: Young people are entirely capable of making their abortion decisions however they are most comfortable, whether that involves a parent or not. And statistics show that in states without parental involvement laws, the majority of young people involve a parent regardless, and almost all young people involve a trusted adult in their abortion decision.

But for young people who can’t involve a parent, parental involvement laws only present further challenges; these are often young people in foster care, or whose parents have been deported or incarcerated, or who live in abusive households. And for these minors, the delays caused by the judicial bypass process will make it nearly impossible to get an abortion in Texas before that two-week window has passed.

As if that’s not bad enough, Texas also enforces a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for all abortions, adding another day’s delay.

The TLDR: If you’re under 18, it’s possible to access abortion in Texas, but thanks to a bunch of harmful laws it’s really really hard.

What to do if you need an abortion in Texas

Put in a call to Jane’s Due Process, a Texas-based nonprofit that works with young people to help them access abortion and other reproductive health care, including by providing support for minors going through the judicial bypass process. They have a 24/7 hotline that you can call or text: 866-999-5263. Jane’s Due Process can also help you find contraceptive services, so if that’s something you want to consider to help protect you against unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, they’ve got you covered.

“SB 8 is so devastating for minors because, on top of the complicated and time-consuming process of getting a judicial bypass, SB 8 would make it nearly impossible to get a bypass and get an abortion in a six-week time frame. I found out I was pregnant as early as I possibly could and I still had the abortion past six weeks,” said Veronika Granado, a youth advocacy fellow with Jane’s Due Process.

You might be eligible to access a medication abortion, which you can find more information about here. If you have questions about the risks of self-managed abortion, you can contact the Repro Legal Helpline online or at 844-868-2812, or the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline, which is a free service.

Consider your traveling options. Traveling out of state is challenging for many reasons. For young people, the possibility of missing school, finding and paying for transportation, and finding somewhere to stay all complicate the option of traveling to a neighboring state with fewer abortion restrictions. Not to mention the complications added by a global pandemic. But if you can consider traveling, here’s what you need to know:

  • New Mexico has almost no abortion restrictions, including no parental consent law.
  • Oklahoma has a whole host of abortion restictions, including parental consent, a ban on telemedicine for medication abortion, and a mandatory ultrasound and waiting period. And while they don’t have an abortion ban now, lawmakers recently passed a six-week ban that will go into effect in November unless it is blocked by the courts.
  • Arkansas also has a number of abortion restrictions including a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, a mandatory waiting period and mandated counseling, as well as a parental consent law.
  • Louisiana has a ban at 22 weeks’ gestation, mandatory counseling, a waiting period and ultrasound law, and a ban on telemedicine among other harmful restrictions.
  • If traveling further is an option, there are many states you can fly to where abortion is more accessible. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced that pregnant people from Texas would be welcomed in her state with open arms; states like Maine and California allow young people to have access to abortion without parental consent.

How to pay for your abortion. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds; they have funds in every state that can help cover the costs of your abortion, including travel and lodging. You can also call your local clinic and ask them about any funding sources they might be able to connect you with, and the National Abortion Federation has a hotline that can help with abortion referrals and financial assistance.

More questions? AbortionIsLegal.org has got you. Find resources for paying for abortion, medication abortion options, and locating a clinic at their website.

Finally: Take a deep breath. Things are really scary right now, but there are a lot of people on your side: advocates working tireless to fight these laws and to help pregnant people access abortion care, and abortion providers in neighboring states ready to welcome patients to their clinics.