This blog is the second in a two-part series about the new six-week abortion ban in Texas. The first blog explained details of the new law and why it is so dangerous.
If Texas's Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8) is not stopped by the courts, abortion will be banned at approximately six weeks of pregnancy starting September 1.
Planned Parenthood, joined by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, and the Lawyering Project, filed a lawsuit to block this extraordinarily harsh abortion ban. Learn more about the lawsuit.
Here’s what you need to know about what led up to the Texas ban and how to fight back.
Defend the right to abortion for all people everywhere, no matter what.
Texas’s Six-Week Abortion Ban
If allowed to take effect, S.B. 8 would be the most severe and punitive abortion ban in the country. Because many people don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks, this law will leave abortion legal in name only for most people throughout Texas.
Texas politicians framed S.B. 8 to allow anyone — including anti-abortion activists who have no connection to the patient — to act as bounty hunters, taking doctors, health centers, and anyone who helps another person access abortion to court to collect $10,000 for each abortion and thousands more in other fees. This law was set up to intimidate physicians and other clinic staff and dismantle abortion in the state. By providing abortion, providers and others could face ruinous financial penalties, including legal costs and court orders, that might cause health centers to shut their doors.
It's simple: this law is an attempt to force all Texas health centers that provide abortion to close by saddling them with lawsuits that consume their time and resources.
Defending Roe v. Wade
Other states have enacted six-week abortion bans, and in each and every case, the courts have blocked those laws finding them unconstitutional. But that didn’t stop Texas politicians. They went further, designing the six-week ban to try to evade judicial scrutiny and accountability in the courts.
What’s more, the Supreme Court will soon hear a Mississippi case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade. This case is about a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and it gives the Supreme Court a chance to let other abortion bans — like S.B. 8 — stand. In the next year, the Supreme Court could overturn Roe. That could open the floodgates to abortion bans across the country and wipe out abortion access for nearly half of U.S. states. With S.B. 8, Texas would join 14 states with a near-total ban on abortion.
Texas's History of Attacking Abortion Access
Gov. Abbott’s decision to sign this unconstitutional abortion ban into law is the latest in a rash of politically motived efforts to end abortion access in Texas.
Already, most Texans must make two trips to an abortion provider: Before being allowed to get an abortion, a patient who lives within 100 miles of an abortion provider must come in-person to hear providers read a state-mandated script, receive a mandatory ultrasound, and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure.
Among many other restrictions in Texas: Medication abortion is not allowed to be administered via telemedicine.
Last year, Gov. Abbott exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to ban abortion. The ban led to a week-to-week legal rollercoaster that prompted many patients to flee the state for time-sensitive health care.
Starting in 2011, Texas took actions to bar abortion providers from participating in its state Medicaid family planning program — which has sharply decreased the number of Texans receiving preventive sexual and reproductive health care, including birth control. From 2013 to 2017, the number of family planning program patients accessing birth control dropped by 41%.
Abortion restrictions ramped up so much in the 2010s that the number of facilities providing abortion in Texas dropped 25% — from 44 to 35 abortion providers — from 2014 to 2017. In 2017, 96% of Texas counties had no abortion access at all.
The Worst Decade for Abortion Rights
The six-week ban in Texas is part of a coordinated national strategy by politicians who’ve enacted 1,320 abortion bans and restrictions in the 48 years since Roe v. Wade was decided — and over 40% of those laws were enacted after 2011.
The past decade has been particularly relentless for abortion restrictions. Over the last 10 years, Texas has passed dozens of abortion restrictions; S.B. 8 is the most extreme yet.
So far, this year has already proven to be the most hostile six-month period on record for state abortion rights. In the first six months of 2021, state politicians introduced more than 500 restrictions on abortion access. Of these restrictions, 90 have been enacted — more than in any full year since Roe v. Wade was decided.
These 2021 laws are particularly severe. In addition to Texas’ six-week abortion ban, the new abortion restrictions include 11 other abortion bans, as well as multiple medically unnecessary restrictions, including restrictions on medication abortion — a reaction to expanding access through telehealth during the pandemic.
After years of escalating attacks on abortion access and care at Planned Parenthood health centers, Texas politicians have a one-track mind: outlaw abortion and shut down abortion providers. We won’t let that happen.
The reproductive rights movement knows how to withstand even the toughest attacks, and we will do everything we can to protect access to abortion.
Mark our words: People who care about sexual and reproductive rights will hold Texas legislators — and all politicians who threaten our right to abortion access — accountable at the ballot box. We’ll continue the fight, no matter what.