Abortion and Texas
Texas has always been a hostile state for abortion. In September of 2021, Texas broke the standard for abortion access in the United States. Under SB8 private citizens can sue other Texans for having or aiding in the procurement of an abortion — they can sue anyone from the person who drives the patient to the clinic to the doctor who performs the abortion. This means Texas legislators put the law into hands of private citizens and made abortion basically inaccessible to Texans. When SB8 went into effect, and wasn’t blocked by any of the higher courts, this challenged the legal precedent that was set with Roe V. Wade.
As a native Texan, this new law did not shake me, and I was confused why everyone around me was so shocked and upset by this change in a state so far away from Pennsylvania. What did it mean to break a Supreme Court precedent? Why was everyone so scared? For me, this was a slow and foreseen build up. After doing some research I realized why I wasn’t shaken by SB8 but still worried. For context, I was born in 1998 and at a quick glance you can see that most TRAP laws, or Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Laws, began passing in 1997 and steadily grew throughout my life. Here’s a quick timeline of abortion laws in Texas. Starting from when abortion became part of the law to present day:
1854: Texas makes abortions illegal except to save the life of the mother with a 2–5-year prison sentence
1973: Roe V. Wade is passed; Texas does not repeal any of its anti-abortion laws which were then unconstitutional
1992: Only Texas licensed physicians could perform an abortion in the state
1997: Twenty-one abortion related bills were introduced in the Texas legislature, 5 TRAP Laws passed:
- TX SB 407 (1997) Made the penalty for Facilities not being up to code $1000 per day
- TX SB 1534 (1997) No state funding can go towards abortions/abortion services
- TX HB 1 (1997) The General Appropriations Act: No funding for the Department of Health could be used towards abortion services
- HB 39 (1997) Parent must consent before child is genetically tested and results of tests cannot be used to coerce them into an abortion by health care providers or insurers
- TX HB 2856 (1997) Made abortion facilities display irrelevant paperwork on licensing and inspection status, as well as any professional, civil, or criminal penalties incurred by anyone employed at the clinic.
2003: A Woman’s Right to Know Act
2005: Parental Consent Law
2007: Informed Consent Requirement
2012: Mandatory Ultrasounds
2013: First attempt at Heartbeat Bill
2017: Second attempt at Heartbeat Bill but this time with the death penalty
2019: Third attempt at Heartbeat Bill (HB1500)
2021: Texas Heartbeat Act SB8 Passes and goes into effect September 1, 2021
SB8’s Impact in Pennsylvania
Texas is what is known as a trigger state, meaning if Roe V. Wade was ever overturned, Texas and 10 other states would outright ban abortion. Although Pennsylvania is not a trigger state, if Roe V. Wade was overturned, it would leave Pennsylvanians at the will of the legislature and their next Governor.
Who is really impacted?
Even though SB8 makes almost all abortions unobtainable, it just put a minimum price tag on receiving an abortion as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). So now we have two laws that are restricting the rights of already disenfranchised Texans.
What’s happening now, and where do we go from here?
On October 6th, Judge Robert of the U.S. District Court temporarily blocked SB8 from being enforced. For the moment, Texans can’t be sued for receiving abortion services. However, since the passing of SB8, the number of abortions received in Texas has drastically dropped. Those seeking abortions in Texas are going to clinics too early and even worse too late. The temporary block means no one can be sued, but clinics still cannot provide abortions after the medically arbitrary 6-week mark. Texans are forced out of state or to Mexico for abortion care. This has also meant a rise in need for self-managed abortions, which a lot of Texans are not given information on until the need arises. Therefore, due to limited help and lack of education around self-managed abortions, many people are at risk of complications. Now more than ever we should be pushing for information on self-managed abortions to be made readily available. There is more information on self-managed abortions in the resource section below.
In South Texas, an area that only has one clinic to support a population of 1.4 million, there are organizations like Frontera, who are helping patients pay for abortion care and related travel expenses. However, Texans are still unsure of where to turn and who to trust when seeking abortion services. Also, there are many Anti-Abortion Centers (also known as Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPCs) which actively lie to patients about their options. Therefore, there is a desperate need for information on organizations like Frontera to be made more known.
Pressure needs to be put on Governor Abbot and other lawmakers in the state to overturn this extreme abortion ban.