Armed civilians, opposition to democracy and reducing women’s rights to the bare minimum. Texas, a state which prides itself on the liberty of its people, has either forgotten what freedom is or has regressed into an insultingly patriarchal mentality. In a sick twist of fate, the current state of Texas reflects the ethos many Texans attribute to the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan. To be clear, no one is bashing Muslims, Christians, or any other religion; the only problematic system here is fundamentalism.
Since Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB-8) went into effect on September 1, social media has been comparing the law to the Taliban’s similarly rigid attitude toward women. The #TexasTaliban hashtag was quickly trending on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, enraging celebrities such as Stephen King, Harry Shearer and Michael Rapaport.
Author Stephen King tweeted “The Taliban would love the Texas abortion law.”
Harry Shearer, an actor best known for voicing many characters on The Simpsons, tweeted “Remarkable that, in the same week, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan AND the Texas legislature.”
Concerns for the Afghan women left behind have lingered with American news outlets as the Taliban fully occupies Afghanistan. Oddly enough, Fox News, which expressed concern for Afghan women, is the same right-wing platform that supported the new abortion ban in Texas.
Actor Michael Rapaport pointed out questionable contradictions in the state’s militant approach, tweeting “In Texas it’s ‘My Body, My Choice’ regarding Vaccinations but that doesn’t apply for Women having abortions.” A curious double standard, expecting constitutional freedom to allow citizens to do what they wish with their bodies except for pregnant women, God forbid. The fact that women are allowed to carry weapons in Texas but not make decisions regarding their bodies reflects Texas’s priorities.
How SB-8 came into effect is evidently calculated from a legal perspective. The law does not ban abortions outright but invites private citizens to sue those aiding in abortions, including abortion clinics. This left clinics furiously completing appointments until midnight on Aug. 31 in an effort to avoid being brought to court. Herein lies the legal genius—the U.S. Constitution enables the federal government to sue only states, not private citizens (and even this is limited, given states’ immunity in certain circumstances as established by the Eleventh Amendment). By allowing individual citizens to enforce the law for a $10,000 reward, the Constitution is circumnavigated. Any Texan resident can now go bounty hunting—tracking women who they suspect might be getting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and reporting medical facilities that help them do so safely. Not only is Texas opposed to women’s rights, it is now financially incentivizing citizens to suppress them in its place. It’s a twenty first-century witch hunt of which other like-minded states are taking note.
Whilst we witness an increasing debate on U.S. social media with respect to the Taliban-esque nature of the new abortion law in Texas, women’s rights are rapidly deteriorating in Afghanistan. In the last week alone, women have reportedly gathered three times across the country to peacefully protest against Taliban rule and call for equal rights. The most recent protest, held on Tuesday September 6, was interrupted by Taliban forces firing their weapons. In the background video footage of the protest captured by Afghan news network TOLO, activists can be heard shouting “Why are you hitting us?” Violence and use of tear gas were reportedly used by Taliban members to prevent female activists from marching past the presidential palace.
Unapologetically drawing bridges between the Taliban and Texas, the Chicago Sun Times wrote “The Taliban enforce a religious zealotry with suppression of women as a central tenet. The Taliban invoke religious law to supplant the civil law.” Adding, “The Taliban, of course, patrol the streets of Kabul armed with AK-47s, terrorizing those who might cross them. The Texas Taliban hasn’t gone that far, but they did just force through a law allowing its citizens to carry handguns without a permit.”
Implementing the abortion ban essentially neuters Roe v. Wade in Texas. But the GOP’s plan was forecast long ago when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court picks in 2016.
Costing an estimate of $5.8 trillion and 7,057 service members’ lives, the U.S. has often cited improving women’s rights as a reason justifying their prolonged occupation of Afghanistan. The Sharia law—derived from the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith books—imposes strict ethical codes and punishments for lifestyle choices, particularly women’s. When the Taliban held power in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, their interpretation of the Sharia Law prevented women from pursuing an education, work or leaving their houses unaccompanied by a man and requiring the wearing of burqas. For these reasons, the U.S. called out its blatant misogyny and aimed to spread equal rights between genders during the 20 year war. But the U.S.’ liberal, western mentality is not necessarily more progressive than the Sharia. Consider that the Sharia allows for women to have abortions up to the time of ensoulment (roughly 17 weeks) and takes into consideration potential harm to the mother; two things the new Texas law does not.
On the theme of abortion, late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When [the] government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
Furthermore, reducing a woman merely to a “host body,” as Florida Republican José Oliva, former Speaker of the state's House of Representatives, did five times on CBS Miami, is alarmingly offensive and dehumanizing to all women.
In fact, the repercussions of SB-8 will undoubtedly manifest in women getting abortions anyway, only without medical supervision and, therefore, extreme risk. Minors needing parental consent; lower-income individuals not be able to travel to a neighboring state; undocumented immigrants who face additional risk when traveling; women of color already suffering of high-mortality rates; these groups will most likely be the most affected by this new law.
Retaliating against the abortion ban, several companies have made public statements to support Texas women and those seeking to help them get abortions. Transportation giants Lyft and Uber have declared their intention to cover whatever fees their drivers may be charged for driving women to clinics, and dating sites Bumble and Match have set up funds for people affected by the ban. Aside from large corporations, grassroots champions of freedom throughout the country are pooling funds to for medical bills, providing couches in surrounding states for those seeking abortions and organizing legal and political defenses.
Political organizations like Avow, a nonprofit which advocates for unrestricted abortion rights in Texas, aren’t just kicking the can down the road, but asking how to overturn SB-8 and prevent similar laws in the future the infringe upon women’s rights. The organization's Political Director, Caroline Duble, said the new law is a “direct result of white supremacy and the patriarchy.” Avow is currently focused on electing more liberal officials in 2022, holding those elected accountable and promoting the Women’s Health Protection Act.
“We want women out there to know that you are not alone, this law was designed to intimidate you,” Duble said. “Please do ask for help, don’t hesitate to reach out.”
Though women are still able to pursue education and build careers in Texas, the fact that white men believe that they should decide what to do with women’s bodies on their behalf suggests a fundamental flaw in the American ethos of liberty. The same sentiment of patriarchal control seems to be so assured of its own prowess that it expands across the globe, convincing men in power that they should dictate how Afghan women should live as well. However, women in Afghanistan are only the latest vulnerable group in the spotlight. Be it gender, race or religious ideology, it’s the “white man’s superiority complex” that will stop at no one, controlling others’ lives towards what most benefits them, that remains the underlying trend.
Featured image: Texas Handmaids, a pro-choice advocacy group, protests Texas Senate Bill 8 in September 2021 dressed as characters from Margaret Atwood's dystopian story The Handmaid's Tale. (C) Texas Handmaids