Opinion | Texas law sets dangerous precedent for Iowa

The newest anti-abortion law threatens victims of sexual violence across the country.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions and Amplify editor

Texas has created an uncertain future for women and victims of sexual violence.

The state’s newest law bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps women acquire the procedure. You heard that right — anyone. Even the Uber driver who gives a ride to the clinic can receive a lawsuit.

Texas and the U.S. Supreme Court have set a dangerous precedent for other red states — including Iowa. Currently, Iowa bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But the state is notoriously known for pushing legislation that restricts access for abortion. While lawmakers have continued to push for restriction, several attempts have been struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court.

In 2018, the court ruled that the Iowa constitution recognizes a person’s fundamental right to abortion and struck down the 72-hour waiting period requirement.

The following year, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the “heartbeat bill” that banned individuals from getting an abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected. The law sparked controversy since a fetal heartbeat can sometimes be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy and shortened the window where a person can legally get an abortion in the state. Opponents also noted that many people aren’t aware that they’re pregnant at the six-week mark.

However, it was later deemed unconstitutional by a state judge because the parameters of the law were “violative of both the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution as not being narrowly tailored to serve the compelling state interest of promoting potential life.”

But, with the U.S Supreme Court’s refusal to block the Texas law, the door is wide open for Iowa to adopt similar policies with limited legal barriers.

Now, pro-choice advocates and Democrats are worried that Iowa could mirror Texas law.  Several previous Iowa abortion laws — like the fetal heartbeat bill — were proposed in other states, such as Texas.

While many pro-choice supporters are advocating for “my body, my choice,” another alarming feature — or lack thereof — is that this law has no exceptions for cases that involve rape or incest.

The question that needs to be asked is how is this going to affect victims of sexual violence? This law doesn’t only restrict a woman’s control over her body. It also could punish survivors and limit support available to them.

When the Texas law went into effect, rape crisis centers like the Dallas Area Rape Crisis center were forced to limit the support they give because it makes them an easy target to civil lawsuits. If similar measures are taken in Iowa, resources like the Rape Victim Advocacy Program could face a similar dilemma.

What doesn’t help is that our society drags survivors through trauma. Colleges like the University of Iowa uphold rape culture by allowing sexual assault to happen without punishment. The criminal justice system fails survivors when they refuse to take victims’ cases to court and let 995 out of every 1000 perpetrators walk free.

We already have barriers in place that penalize survivors. Now, Texas has backed them into a corner with a limited amount of resources and potentially force them into nine months of additional trauma.

And what’s scary is that there’s nothing to stop other states from following suit.

Yes, obvious concerns about Texas’ new law are increases in unsafe abortion and the fact most women don’t know they’re even pregnant at week six.

But the kind of precedent it’s setting for victims of sexual violence across the nation is a dangerous notion, considering the trauma they face from our culture and failures from institutions and the criminal justice system.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.