Deep in the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ of Texas

DISCLAIMER: The views published in this article are those of the individual authors or speakers and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Business Review staff or the University of California, Berkeley. This is an editorial.

Author: Amalia Nichols, Graphics: Nina Tagliabue

The BRB Bottomline

Texas has passed Senate Bill 8, banning most abortions. Beyond impacting women’s reproductive rights, the bill is going to have rippling effects impacting disparate areas of business. It’s time to investigate all these effects.


I am a Texan, but especially as of late, I am not a proud Texan. The Texas State Government has effectively declared war on women with the passage of Senate Bill 8 (SB8). This is the strictest anti-abortion law in the country, prohibiting abortions past six weeks, or when cardiac activity is detected. This is before many women even know they’re pregnant and approximately two weeks after a missed period. SB8 doesn’t even allow exceptions for incest or rape. 

I am terrified for my sisters, cousins, and friends who are still in Texas, having their rights stripped, while I sit here in California with my rights more or less intact. I dread what may come next. However, when caught up in my personal fears, it’s easy to overlook those who are actively and more seriously affected by SB8. To that end, I examine some of the more widespread effects of the bill’s passage, particularly those pertaining to Texas’s businesses, economy, and disadvantaged peoples.

Job Creation?

Empowered by SB8, private citizens can now be on the lookout to sue doctors who perform abortions, women who get abortions, or anyone who ‘aided and abetted’ an abortion, including even the Uber driver that drove a  woman to her appointment. This incentivizes people to invade the personal privacy of others, something Texans claim to take seriously. 

Angry Industries

More than 50 companies have signed an open letter speaking out against the ban, declaring it “bad for business.” They state that SB8 hinders their ability to recruit workers from other states. The letter cites the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which found that the already existing restrictions have cost Texas $14.5 billion annually in economic losses. While the open letter does not detail direct action, companies like Yelp, Lyft, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Madewell, and Bumble who signed this letter, may consider further action, especially if the Biden administration’s attempts to block the law fail. 

Relocation

One such action may entail relocating business, or at least employees. Salesforce has already committed to relocating any employees and their immediate families if they have concerns about access to reproductive healthcare. Other companies may follow suit. There is also the question of ‘at what point may the company relocate the entire business?’ Texas Governor Greg Abbot is confident that Texas’ few regulations and low taxes will continue to incentivize businesses to come to and stay in Texas. However, if employees continue to want to leave, will companies want to stay? Texas is not the only state with few regulations and low taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, Texas does not even fall into the top ten best state business tax climates. In CNBC’s “Top States For Business 2021” rankings, Texas ranked 4th. While this is a good ranking, Virginia, North Carolina, and Utah all ranked above Texas, and Tennessee ranked shortly below. Businesses have options.

Boycott?

A more radical action would be a boycott. When Georgia tried to pass a similar ‘heartbeat bill,’ Hollywood vowed to boycott the state, and the law was eventually struck down. Texas is not the “production hub” that Georgia is, so Hollywood does not feel the same need to boycott. However, companies planning on or currently operating in Texas, especially tech companies from California (as there has been a major movement of tech companies from California to Texas in recent years), may consider a boycott and plan to move operations. I haven’t lived in California long, but I already found myself flabbergasted by Texas policies when I was home in Houston for the summer, having become accustomed to California’s progressive policies. There is bound to be some shock and outrage among Californian employees and companies, potentially spurring a boycott. 

Sadly, I’m not holding out hope. Corporations don’t have the best track record with taking action for reproductive rights, as it is such a divisive issue. Most major corporations are staying silent, making it even less likely that they will take decisive action. Nevertheless, even without action taken by companies, SB8 will have and is already having significant effects on the Texas economy.

Strain on Clinics

SB8 is not so much decreasing abortion rates as decreasing Texas abortion rates. Clinics in neighboring states are experiencing rapidly increasing demand that they do not have the resources to support. At a Planned Parenthood clinic in Oklahoma City, they have 219 appointments booked for a two-week period. Over 60% of said appointments are for women from Texas. Clinics in the surrounding states also cannot keep up with this demand. A clinic in Dallas has sent 13 of its employees to a sister clinic in New Mexico to aid with the influx of Texas patients. One employee, Dr. Allison Gilbert, is certain her clinic will shut down if SB8 is not repealed. Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of the abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, believes that, if the law is not struck down within the next few weeks, most, if not all, of the clinics in Texas will close, leading to significant unemployment.

Strain on the Foster Care System

Something that cannot be forgotten is what will happen to the children that women are forced to carry to term. Women who cannot afford to go out of state for an abortion and who cannot afford to raise a child will likely put their children in foster care. In July of this year, before the passage of SB8, the Texas Tribune did an in-depth investigation into the Texas foster care system. The number of children in foster care has increased tenfold from a year ago. Already, thousands of children are sleeping in Child Protective Services (CPS) offices and other unlicensed foster homes like motels and churches. Essentials like showers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and even meals are something kids find themselves having to beg for. 

There has been a decade-long class-action lawsuit that brought the Texas foster care system under Texas Supreme Court supervision. Initially, Justice Janis Jack found Texas to be violating the constitutional rights of foster children, and she issued a list of reforms the state needed to take. She has since found Texas in contempt for not meeting those reforms multiple times. In just the first half of 2021, 501 children spent at least one night in unlicensed placement, and some spent more than 100 consecutive nights. The Child Protective Services staff is largely undertrained and understaffed. The Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Jaime Masters wrote that while the “lack of capacity undoubtedly increased significantly with COVID-19,” that is not the primary issue anymore. Instead, he says the federal foster care lawsuit and insufficient provider payment rates are having a “significant impact.” There is no legislature in the works to increase provider payment rates.

Harm to foster children in unlicensed homes goes beyond missing essentials. Children have become victims of physical and sexual abuse, have gone missing, and/or have been groomed for sex trafficking. All of this will only be exacerbated by the unavoidable swelling of foster child numbers that will come as a direct result of SB8. There will also be a further strain on government funds.

Working Women

Working women will be affected in a variety of ways by SB8, all of which are negative. This will have a rippling effect on the workforce in general that needs to be addressed.

Pregnancy Discrimination

In the last 10 years, more than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices Agencies. Discrimination includes subtly hostile behavior like social isolation, negative stereotyping, and negative or rude interpersonal treatment. Some examples might be lower performance expectations, worse shifts, and inappropriate jokes/comments. In more extreme cases, women are forced into unpaid leave, rejected from jobs, and even (usually subtly) fired. As more women are forced to carry to term, these problems will only become more widespread.

Disadvantages on Disadvantages

Women of lower socioeconomic classes are hit disproportionately with the brunt of the effects of SB8. Only 6% of low-income working people in the US have access to paid family leave. 75% of abortion patients are poor or low income. About half of all people who get an abortion live below the federal poverty line. This is logical. Children are expensive. According to a Planned Parenthood volunteer in Houston, Texas, one patient came in with her young son for an abortion appointment and ended up explaining that she was getting an abortion because her son has cancer. With the medical costs and them living on one income because she had to quit her job to take care of her son, she could not afford another child. She could barely afford her current child. While this is indicative of a greater issue with United States healthcare, this patient is not the only woman who has been in a position like this. It is also low-income women who are unable to take off work to get an abortion out of state, afford travel costs, or secure childcare. Women who are denied abortions and go on to give birth experience an increase in household poverty of four years or more. The employment rates for women who were denied abortions are significantly lower in the first six months, something most women seeking abortions cannot afford. Women not denied abortions generally experienced increased employment rates. In sum, low-income women tend to get the most abortions because they cannot afford the financial strain of carrying to term. Now, with SB8, they also cannot afford the financial strain of traveling out of state for an abortion. 

Black women are 3.15 times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women, and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 2.3 times more likely. The highest abortion rates in Texas are among Black women, followed by other women from minority groups (Asian, Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native), then Hispanic women. White women have the lowest abortion rates. Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native women also have the lowest average household income, so they are also strongly affected by the disadvantages of women of lower socioeconomic standing. By putting even stronger restrictions on abortions, Texas is thereby putting women’s lives at risk, and disproportionately the lives of women of color.

Health Issues

Being denied an abortion causes considerable increases in mental health issues in the months after abortion denial, like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, not to mention the risk of post-partum depression that comes with giving birth. Women who are denied abortions were also found to have poorer health and higher rates of chronic pain. This is not even including the health risks that come with giving birth. Carrying a pregnancy to term is much riskier than getting an abortion. This is something that will affect all women denied an abortion, including and especially working women.

Women and the Workforce

Women play an integral role in the workforce. We make up 74% of the education and health services sector and almost half of the US labor force. In fact, Black women had the highest national workforce participation rate. It is believed that “increasing the female participation rate to that of men would raise our gross domestic product by 5 percent.” SB8 is going to pull women out of the workforce. Whether this be through pregnancy discrimination and dismissal, job loss due to having to travel out of state for an abortion, decreased performance due to health consequences, or even death due to pregnancy complications and health issues, we will see a decrease in the female labor force. 

What Can You Do?

For a state that likes to posture so much about individual freedoms, Texas is dead set on taking them away from women. Abortion is a basic right for women and women’s health. Texas has declared a war on all women, and I’m scared. Despite my fear, I do not just want to sit here helplessly. I want to do something. So here is a list of things we, as ordinary citizens, can do:

Take-Home Points

  • Texas banned almost all abortions with the passage of Senate Bill 8.
  • SB8 encourages an invasion of privacy through the deputization of citizens to investigate and sue anyone involved in an abortion for $10,000.
  • Many companies are outraged, but we shouldn’t count on them to take serious action.
  • Undue strain is being put on the abortion clinics in surrounding states and will be put on the already overwhelmed foster care system.
  • This ban is disproportionately harming women of color and low-income women, putting at risk their livelihoods and lives.
  • Women are essential to the workforce, and SB8 will pull them out of it.
  • It is important to educate yourself and speak up, and even to write to senators about the Women’s Health Protection Act. There are also a lot of places to donate if you want to fight this bill.

3 Comments

  1. Hi! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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