Reproductive justice groups fight Texas’ new abortion law while bracing for lawsuits
Conservative lawmakers across the country are taking unprecedented steps to restrict people’s access to abortion, with 90 new abortion restrictions imposed in states in 2021 alone, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy advocacy group.
Many new restrictions were enacted in the southern states, where the right to abortion was already limited. For example, a new arkansas law prohibits abortion at any time during pregnancy except when the life of the patient is in danger, while lawmakers Tennessee enacted bans on abortion at six weeks gestation with limited exceptions.
Texas law already banned abortion after 20 weeks, but on May 19, Gov. Greg Abbott (right) enacted the even more restrictive law Senate Bill 8. The so-called “heartbeat bill” not only prohibits abortions from six weeks onwards – before most people even know they are pregnant – but also allows individuals to sue any person or group who “helps and encourages” someone seeking an abortion, encouraging citizens to uphold the law.
SB8 has organizations that help Texans access abortion fearing they will be shut down. To combat this possibility, reproductive justice groups and abortion providers are challenging the law, which is due to go into effect on September 1. On July 13, abortion rights groups filed a trial in United States District Court for the Western District of Texas who claims the measure “blatantly violates the constitutional rights of Texans seeking abortion and upsets the rule of law in the service of an anti-abortion agenda.”
Among the more than 20 complainants denouncing the bill is the Afiya Center, a reproductive justice center in North Texas founded by, run by and serving black women and girls. Although the organization itself does not provide abortions, it is part of the Trust, Respect, Access coalition that advocates for accessibility to abortion and helps raise funds for low-income people seeking abortions – actions which, under the new law, could be interpreted as illegal aiding and inducing abortion. ‘abortion.
Afiya Center political associate Michelle Anderson said the law’s new provision allowing individuals to sue is “an intentional tactic to roughly deplete the resources of organizations by engaging them in extensive legal proceedings.” . But fighting SB8 is not only important for the survival of the Afiya Center, but also to protect the lives of black women who, according to Anderson, “are still struggling for full bodily autonomy.”
Additionally, SB8 prevents groups sued under the law from recovering attorney fees and costs even if the group wins the case, said Cristina Parker, director of communications at the Lilith Fund. Founded in 2001, it is the oldest abortion fund in Texas and one of the 10 in the state, which shows how great the need for help in accessing a safe and legal abortion is, she said.
“[SB8] is really just meant to harass us or intimidate us and stop us, ”Parker said. “So the risk here is that they drown us in baseless lawsuits, which only harass us… It’s really outrageous. “
Federal Politics prohibits the use of federal funds including Medicaid for abortion, while Texas law prohibits private insurers from covering abortion costs, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texass. Because abortions in Texas are not covered by insurance, people requesting abortions must pay for them out of pocket.
The cost of an abortion depends on the progress of the pregnancy and the method used, the price generally ranging from $ 300 to $ 1,500, depending on the patient. Texas ACLU. This makes the work of the Abortion Fund which raises funds for people seeking abortions particularly important in the state.
Forcing Texans to pay for an abortion entirely out of pocket places a huge financial burden on low-income individuals and families, “and that’s why we’re here to help people access the care they need,” said Parker said.
Paying these costs can be next to impossible for those already economically disadvantaged, such as those who live in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where about half of the residents live below the poverty line, according to one. Valley Central Analysis of Texas County Association Revenue Data.
Located in this region is the Frontera Fund, which helps residents pay for and access safe abortions. Last year alone, the fund helped 400 people facing unwanted pregnancies, said executive director Zaena Zamora. If SB8 drowned the fund in legal action, hundreds of people each year would go without needed care or get unsafe abortions. Zamora said she was particularly concerned about what this means for the undocumented immigrants her group serves, whose ability to travel is limited by border patrol checkpoints in the area.
“If you don’t have documentation barriers, you can eventually leave the state to get your care,” Zamora said. “If you are undocumented, this option is not available to you.”
Members of organizations that help minors access abortion in Texas are also concerned about the implications of SB8, such as Jane’s due process (JDP).
Under State Law, a physician must notify a parent or legal guardian of a pregnant adolescent 17 years of age or younger seeking an abortion and obtain consent, unless the minor is married, emancipated or the abortion must be performed immediately due to of a medical emergency. If the minor does not want the doctor to notify the parent, the minor must seek an order from a judge, called judicial circumvention, removing the requirement.
JDP Director Rosann Mariappuram said restrictions on abortion in Texas are already hurting someone seeking an abortion, “but for young people they kind of add a complicated layer because already as a minor, you don’t have a ton of autonomy over where you are, how you get to somewhere, and whether you have the money or the resources to do what you need. “
Most of the young people who seek help from the JDP do not have the extra money to pay for transportation to a clinic, which is one of the many obstacles minors face, Mariappuram said. In addition, almost all clients who seek help from JDP have an abortion after six weeks, which exceeds the time limit written in SB8.
“Especially for young people, Senate Bill 8 is likely to make abortion impossible,” said Mariappuram, who is also preparing for legal action in September.
To prepare for these potential legal attacks, JDP is working to find ways to continue helping minors even if the bill goes into effect. JDP staff are also preparing for possible prosecution by raising funds for their defense.
“Abortion is legal, we can still help people,” Mariappuram said. “And while everything that’s going on with Senate Bill 8 is really scary, I think we’ll find ways to help people no matter what.”