Friday morning, Texans awoke to find they had significantly less abortion access than they did the day before. Late Thursday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas could begin implementing its anti-abortion laws. These are the same laws that brought thousands of Texans protesting to the Capitol, and the laws that pushed Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte to celebrity status because of a passionate dissent and a 13-hour filibuster. To put it mildly, these are the laws that Texans have opposed vocally.
The anti-abortion opposition has made it clear that it would like to get rid of abortion altogether, but barring that possibility, they’ve opted to make it as hard as possible for people with less means. People of color, immigrants, poor people, homeless people, sick and disabled, rural, LGBTQ people – these are all groups that face systemic oppression and barriers to all health care. These restrictions now collude to make getting an abortion almost impossible for many facing intersecting oppression barriers at the same time.
Since House Bill 2 was passed last year, half of the six clinics in San Antonio have had to shut their doors to patients needing abortions. The bill imposes extraordinary and expensive requirements on clinics that perform abortions – the medically unnecessary requirements essentially render most clinics “inadequate” by the bill’s standards, and therefore they must close.
The United Nations has called access to reproductive health care, including safe and legal abortion, a fundamental human right, but that’s never stopped Texas before. The Texas Legislature refuses to expand Medicaid access. We have one of the highest numbers of people working at or below the minimum wage, or working families in poverty. We have the highest number of children without health care, and we spend less per child in schools than almost any state.
It’s in this environment that conservatives in Texas have tried to say they’re “pro-life,” but apparently caring for life stops at birth for them.
Studies have shown over and over denying people abortions doesn’t decrease need for abortions. All of the alternatives are morally incompatible with the idea of respecting life. Pregnant families with means will be able to travel to another state, although these laws are insidiously crawling all over the country, buoyed by legislative success in Texas. People without means will have to make hard decisions. Will they give birth to a child they don’t need or want or can’t afford? Will they cross over the border into Mexico and try to procure abortion medication on their own? Will they self-induce in another manner, and hope an emergency room will care for their “miscarriage” if it goes badly? In a state that often doesn’t support even a wanted child with resources and safety, someone facing an unwanted pregnancy can become desperate.
People who are turned away from abortions are more likely to fall farther into poverty. Adoption is an answer for some, but Texas has thousands and thousands of children, mostly children of color, in the foster system, and adoption is expensive and often limited to people with a lot of resources and means. The idea that there are thousands of families just wishing to adopt a baby is a red herring that the anti-choice lot often trots out, but the stark reality shows that’s not the case.
These restrictions will continue to be hardest on the people who call our hotline at the Lilith Fund. Often they are already parents struggling to make ends meet. They are students. They are workers. They are overwhelmingly people of color. They are employed, or not. They are generally people of faith, of all different religions. What they have in common is not being able to pay for an abortion that they need. The Lilith Fund provides grants to people who are doing their best to get their resources together and still coming up short. Texans are resourceful. We’re smart, we’re tough. We don’t always like to ask for help, so when we do, it matters.
What we’re not is voters. Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, and the very lowest amongst women. When people tell you these laws are the will of the people, tell them it is the will of a very small percentage of people who vote. These laws that harm children, families, women, education, and gay rights are allowed to creep in and flourish in Texas because not enough people stand up and say no.
The deadline to register in this important election is Monday. Make sure you are registered. Check your ID to make sure it matches. Talk to your friends and family, even if it feels uncomfortable. The future of Texas is at stake. Visit www.votetexas.gov.
Even if we put all abortion rights supporting politicians in office this election, the idea that clinics will all reopen is probably unlikely. Clinics have been financially gutted through regulations and expensive lawsuits – that’s a tactic of the anti-abortion side. When they know they can’t win genuinely, they make it financially impossible to operate a business, especially one that might be primarily patronized by low-income people.
Clinics have always struggled to get by, and this has made it even worse. It will take a long time to rebuild the support system that decades of right-wing politicians have chipped away at, but they’ve gotten too bold. They’ve crossed the line and even sleepy Texans are unwilling to stand by and watch their rights stolen by gerrymandering. Now is the time to take back our Texas or we stand to lose it for generations.