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What Does a 6-Week Abortion Ban Even Mean?​​

A new abortion ban in Texas called S.B. 8 went into effect September 1. The law bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — which is before many people know that they’re pregnant. This means that if you live in Texas and you need an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy you have two options: travel out of state to get your abortion or carry your pregnancy to term against your will. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

The law also targets people who help you get an abortion after six weeks in Texas — like your doctor or a friend who helps you get to your appointment — by allowing anyone to sue them.

But what does it even mean to be six weeks pregnant? Let’s break it down:

You typically won’t know you’re pregnant until you miss a period and take a pregnancy test. Many people have irregular menstrual cycles — they can be thrown more out of whack due to stress, being sick, or taking certain medications. And that can make it even more challenging to keep track of your period. Doctors count the age of a pregnancy from the first day of your last period. So that means by the time you miss your period and find out you’re pregnant, you’re already about four weeks pregnant. Even if you have a regular 28 day cycle (HA!) and are watching your period like a hawk, that still means the window to get an abortion in Texas is now about two weeks.

Two weeks to make a decision, find child care, take off work, find the money to pay for the procedure, and deal with the other laws in Texas that are designed to shame you and delay your care, like a mandatory 24 hour waiting period for most people and a requirement that all patients receive state-mandated counseling and ultrasound. For these reasons and more, before this law went into effect, roughly 85% of abortions in Texas occurred after six weeks.

Being six weeks pregnant does not mean you have six weeks to get an abortion.

And the real bottom line is this: Everyone deserves access to abortion, no matter where they live.

Abortion bans are cruel. Twenty-week bans, fifteen-week bans, six-week bans — the aim is always the same: make it as hard as possible to get an abortion until abortion access is eliminated, state by state. S.B. 8 is a part of a national agenda to end access to abortion in this country, and we’re bracing for copycat versions of this six-week abortion ban in other states.

Not only that, but soon the Supreme Court will hear a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade — Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. According to Gallup polling, 80% of people want abortion to be legal. But that hasn’t stopped politicians hellbent on eliminating access to abortion from chipping away at abortion rights nonstop since Roe v. Wade established the constitutional right to abortion, nearly 50 years ago.

Which states have abortion bans?

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade through the Jackson Women’s Health case, 26 states could immediately move to restrict abortion and at least 11 states have laws designed to immediately end abortion access (Guttmacher, 2021). That’s because they have “trigger laws” on the books — laws that claim to ban abortion in the event that the Roe v. Wade is overruled.

The threat to safe and legal abortion isn’t just knocking at our door, it’s here. And Texas is just the beginning.

Know this: Our patients come first. We’ll do everything we can to help people get the care they need as we comply with this unjust law. And we’ll keep fighting for access to abortion and reproductive freedom. We can’t allow the reality of Texas to become the reality of this country.

Read more about the new Texas abortion ban and take action here.

If you’re in Texas and you need an abortion, please seek care as soon as possible. Locate an abortion provider at AbortionFinder.org or call 1–800–230-PLAN.

Tags: Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Abortion restrictions, six-week abortion ban, abortion access, pregnancy, periods, SB8, sex education