Santa Barbara Women’s March demonstration opposes Texas Heartbeat Act

Adam Vekony, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Oct. 2, people from across Santa Barbara County convened to march in opposition to a recent abortion bill passed in Texas. This event was part of a nationwide movement called the Women’s March, which is in its fifth year running. 

According to the Santa Barbara News-Press, local politicians, such as State Sen. Monique Limón and Assemblymember Steve Bennett, attended the event. Protesters carried signs as they marched from De La Guerra Plaza up State Street.

The march responded to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which came into effect on Sept. 1 after passing in both the Texas House and Senate. The Texas Heartbeat Act allows citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion after detection of a heartbeat in the unborn, but also states that the woman who receives or attempts to receive an abortion cannot be prosecuted. 

Riley Potter, a second-year leader of the Westmont Feminist Society, stated that while “none of the Feminist Society leaders were able to make it to the march, we wholly support its message and activism efforts.” She went on to affirm that the law “sets a dangerous precedent … laws regulating abortion are often seen as a means of controlling women and limiting their realms of opportunities.” 

Under the Texas Heartbeat Act, institutions are banned from performing abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy. Any institution providing abortions after this cutoff risks being brought to court by members of the community. Temporarily blocked on Oct. 6 by a federal judge, the act awaits a final decision and will remain in effect until said decision is made. 

Westmont senior Addie Michaelian views the bill positively, citing section 171.201, which reads, “Texas has a compelling interest from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child.”

Michaelian noted that the law utilizes language that “recognizes the humanity and dignity of the unborn,” and understands the act as a “significant step in challenging the way that abortion has been normalized and protecting vulnerable children as image-bearers of God.”

Potter clarified that she isn’t necessarily advocating for abortion and acknowledged that “pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion,” instead articulating that the decision “to bear a child is up to the woman.” Additionally, she identified potential dangers inherent in the bill, namely that “the reasons that women get abortions are myriad and complex,” adding that a “blanket statement bill banning abortions” is likely to make “women more desperate, forcing them to resort to dangerous … procedures in less-than-ideal conditions.” 

While the bill is controversial, it introduces a novel approach for its enforcement. Michaelian added that by “deputizing private individuals, the law also encourages community responsibility for protecting the vulnerable.” Enforcement by the community increases the difficulty of challenging such a law in court due to the responsibility shift from a single governmental entity to a diverse, variegated collection of individuals. Michaelian predicts that, because of this, the law could prove to be an example “for other states who are looking for an effective way to limit abortion that is difficult to challenge in court.”

The fate of the Texas Heartbeat Act will likely be decided in conjunction with a separate case of a similar nature in Mississippi, which will be presented before the Supreme Court on Dec. 1 of this year. 

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