A right is meaningless if it can’t be exercised. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has allowed the most vicious anti-abortion ban in the nation to take effect in Texas, making it just about impossible for Texans who can get pregnant to exercise the right to decide whether, when, and with whom to do so.
The state now bans abortion after six weeks (which, given how pregnancy is calculated, is before most people know they’re pregnant). But that’s not all. It enforces the ban by allowing anyone, anywhere in the US, to sue anyone in Texas who they think helped someone end a pregnancy in Texas after the six-week mark—and collect $10,000 plus legal fees if they can prove it.
“Helping” doesn’t just mean doctors, nurses, counselors, clinic owners, and other people directly involved in providing care. It also includes a friend who lends someone money for the procedure, a babysitter who provides childcare during someone’s appointment, a volunteer who helps someone buy gas, even an Uber driver who has no idea why they’re dropping someone off in a certain location. And if the people being sued defend themselves successfully, they’re still not allowed to recover their legal fees, which means even unsuccessful lawsuits can bankrupt them.
And that’s the goal: to intimidate and overwhelm people with lawsuits and legal bills until abortion care in Texas is no longer available, even if it stays technically legal.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision has allowed the law to stay on the books. They expressed “concern” about the constitutionality of the law, but argued that clinics have not yet proved a burden sufficient to bring the case to court. The good news is, this means that the law can theoretically be overturned in the future; however, this stunning decision reminds us that this Supreme Court is not interested in protecting reproductive rights (or, indeed, the concept of precedent).
What can you do to help?
Help providers in Texas prepare for an onslaught of lawsuits as they fight to keep their doors open, as well as providers in surrounding states who will have to expand their ability to serve patients as people travel from Texas to get care.
- Six clinics in Texas are operated by Planned Parenthood.
- The rest are independently owned. (Even though they have less name recognition and thus fewer resources than Planned Parenthood, independent clinics serve 3 out of 5 abortion patients in the US.)
- The Center for Reproductive Rights is leading the court battle against the law.
Support abortion funds, which help people afford care and related expenses like childcare and travel. Funds in Texas will now need to budget for lawsuit defense as well as helping more people travel longer distances, while funds in other states will need to step in to backstop them.
- Donate to specific Texas funds:
- Split a single donation among 10 Texas funds at secure.actblue.com/donate/txfunds.
- Send your donation to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which will distribute it where the need is greatest, primarily in the South and Midwest.
- Donate to and volunteer with a fund near you.
As abortion restrictions expand, more and more people will be unable to get to a clinic, or won’t want to—so they’ll choose to end their own pregnancies outside of a clinical setting. But this isn’t going to look like the pre-Roe days. Abortion pills are safe and effective. Donate to, volunteer with, and spread the word about organizations that educate people about getting and using them with minimal medical and legal risk.
- AbortionPillInfo.org provides information about self-managed abortion, including a secure portal where counselors answer questions 15 hours a day in multiple languages.
- PlanCPills.org shares information about how people in the US can access abortion pills online.
- Repro Legal Helpline helps people understand their rights if they’re questioned by police, arrested for home abortion, or seeking medical care after a self-managed abortion.
- Repro Legal Defense Fund helps cover bail and legal fees for people who are investigated, arrested, or prosecuted for ending their own pregnancy or helping someone else do so.
For even more resources and information, read The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America. The ebook version is currently free direct from the publisher. SEPTEMBER 2, 2021EXPLAINER, ROE V. WADE, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, ABORTION, TEXAS, SB8, SUPREME COURT
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