When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last month, we knew the fate of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to access abortion hung in the balance. Now, President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and, if confirmed, Kavanaugh will put access to safe, legal abortion in this country at grave risk.
What once seemed unthinkable is now upon us. What will happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned?
Texas has long been a cautionary tale about the dangerous public health outcomes communities experience when access to reproductive health care is severely restricted or denied.
This was abundantly evident when, in October 2014, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Texas to enforce the provision of House Bill 2, requiring all of the state’s abortion facilities to be ambulatory surgical centers (i.e., mini-hospitals). Only a year before, the court had allowed another abortion restriction requiring that abortion providers have medically unnecessary admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, detailed what happened the day after both of the law’s harmful provisions went into effect: “The Planned Parenthood call center received 572 phone calls from the Houston area — more than six times the usual call volume. Patients were understandably panicked after hearing from providers who couldn’t treat them or learning that their appointments had been cancelled because their health centers closed in the blink of an eye.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s order and reinstate an injunction blocking the surgical center provision.
In the meantime, nearly one million Texas women of childbearing age lived at least 150 miles from a health center that provided safe and legal abortion.
The Supreme Court did weigh in and ultimately overturned both of these harmful provisions in HB 2. But, had the Court upheld the law, “Texas would have been left with as few as 10 abortion clinics — all in major metropolitan areas — to serve 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Although the Supreme Court decision was a victory, a person’s right to control their own body in Texas remains under constant threat. The Texas legislature has spent the last decade systematically dismantling access to safe, legal abortion.
A Texas law passed in 2017, threatening to ban the safest method of abortion in the second trimester, currently sits before the Fifth Circuit. Meanwhile, anti-women’s health legislators have pledged to restrict abortion access further in the 2019 legislative session.
While Texas women routinely face significant barriers to accessing abortion, the stakes are even higher for women of color. According to a report by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights, Latinas living in communities along the border lack access to health centers and are the least likely of all racial and ethnic groups to be able to travel more than 100 miles to get an abortion, because of systemic barriers like immigration status and lack of transportation. Instead, many resort to self-induction attempts or forego abortion altogether.
Now more than ever, we are asking you — Planned Parenthood supporters — to mobilize, make your voices heard, and call on your senators to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination, and any nominee who will threaten our reproductive rights.
The current environment in Texas — and around the nation — puts access to abortion on the line and hurts women, families, and our communities as a whole. We must take action. There’s no time to waste.
Alyah Khan works with Planned Parenthood Texas Votes