[9/6/21] – Texas Abortion Law

On September 1st, 2021 Texas claimed the (dubious) distinction of having the strictest abortion laws in the United States, and some of the most severe in the world. No abortion is legal in the State of Texas 6 weeks after the last menstrual cycle, regardless of traumatic circumstance surrounding pregnancy (e.g., rape, etc.). Unless a medical professional deems the procedure necessary to sustain the life of the mother, abortions beyond the 6th week are now prohibited. In a most curious turn of vigilantism, instead of the law being enforced by government entities, citizens are now deputized to report any violation of the law. Anyone found guilty of violating the law must pay $10,000 to the person who successfully brings such a suit. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we examine this challenge of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling through the lens of sociology. We pay specific attention to how placing a bounty on individuals thought to have violated the law creates opportunity for harassment and intimidation of women who – for whatever reason – have made the decision that it is in the best interest of their family to end the pregnancy prematurely.

Key Concepts

KC1: Explain why the social construction of social problems is controlled by powerful interest groups in the United States.

KC2: Discuss the social implications for passing a law deputizing citizens as a means to control social deviance by offering them a financial incentive.

KC3: Discuss how the passage of this law might influence other state legislatures to follow a similar path to criminalizing abortion.


Discussion Questions

How might the decision to end a pregnancy or carry it to term be influenced by their race/ethnicity, gender, social class, religion, sexuality, and other social factors? What are some rational reasons why a woman – regardless of social identity – would seek assistance from the medical community to facilitate the early termination of a pregnancy?

What is the role of power (or social status) among interest groups aimed at controlling the narrative that defines an aspect of our society – like abortion – as a social problem? How can these powerful interest groups use their advantage to steer public policy in a direction that supports their view of abortion?

How is abortion socially constructed in the United States? What are some stereotypes of women who prematurely end a pregnancy? Why is abortion such a contentious issue? Why are politicians able to control what a woman does with regard to her own health and the health of her unborn baby?

What are the social implications of using cash incentives to motivate the public to report suspiciously abortion-like behaviors of pregnant women and/or their families? How might this law encourage more women to pursue potentially dangerous alternatives to surgical abortions? How might this law facilitate the creation of an underground abortion network in Texas?

What are the financial consequences for Texas of denying specifically low-income women access to abortion? What other supports are necessary to ensure a positive and successful upbringing for all children born in Texas?


Assessment Questions

Social scientists have found that one’s religious beliefs are strongly correlated with their support for abortion rights in the United States. In this example, support for abortion rights is the _______ variable.

a.     Dependent

b.     Independent

c.     Control

d.     Placebo

Comparing how individual views of support for abortion are formed during their unique socialization experience would be an example of what level of analysis?

a.     Macro

b.     Meso

c.     Micro

d.     Mega

From a sociological perspective, in order for social support for an issue of public and/or personal concern to change, the current _______ of the issue needs to challenged.

a.     Social deviation

b.     Social manifestation

c.     Social contract

d.    Social construction

Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/ericsphotography

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