Texans woke up last week with their abortion rights stripped away, after the Supreme Court refused to block a law prohibiting most abortions in the state. Senate Bill 8 bans abortions taking place after 6 weeks of pregnancy, which account for 85 to 90 percent of abortions. This ban will be enforced not by the state, but by the public. Citizens can sue anyone who they believe is in violation of the law, including those seeking abortions, providing abortions, and even gig-workers workers who provide transportation to abortion clinics. Those who sue others will be awarded at least $10,000 and recovery of their legal fees if they win. This draconian rollback of abortion rights is deeply frightening considering many don’t even realize they are pregnant at 6 weeks, ensuring a near-total ban on abortion access in the southern state.
The ability to access an abortion has long been determined by wealth and income, and this Texas law will only sharpen the class and race divides in abortion access. Even before Roe v. Wade, abortions were relatively accessible for wealthy, mostly white women, and they will remain so for Texans with the means to travel out of state for care. Low-income, disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), on the other hand, will not have the same luxury to take time from work, travel the long distances required to reach a state that will provide them an abortion, and then endure mandatory waiting periods and other paternalistic barriers. The disturbing citizen-policing feature of this new law is also likely to disproportionately target BIPOC people, creating a system for racist Texans to materially benefit from reporting their BIPOC neighbors.
An unwanted pregnancy can present a great economic burden for low-income families. Those forced to carry to term will suddenly have an enormous additional strain on their economic wellbeing and future potential earnings. Without sufficient public supports for parents, these low-income Texans and their children are likely to remain low-income and experience adverse impacts on their health and wellbeing.
Reproductive rights are an economic justice issue. This new Texas law will have devastating health and economic impacts for Texans, especially BIPOC Texans. While we in Washington retain strong abortion rights and are fortunate to have many reproductive justice champions in elected office, we must stand in solidarity with Texans who have lost an essential piece of their personal autonomy. If this ban stands in Texas, we can expect that many states with right-leaning governments will follow this model, jeopardizing abortion access for the 1 in 4 cisgender women who get an abortion in their lifetime and the approximately 500 trans or gender-non-binary people who get abortions across the U.S. every year. By failing to block this ban the Supreme Court has shown us that they are not likely to uphold the protections within Roe v. Wade.
While we await court challenges to the law, we can donate to groups helping connect people with out-of-state abortion services such as the Bridge Fund, the Clinic Access Support Network, and the Lillith Fund. (Or you can click here to have your donation split automatically between essential abortion funds in Texas.)
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