In the News

HB2: Clipping Away at Roe in Texas

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Melissa McEwan
Press Release
Washington

This article was originally posted on Shakesville.com

Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled "that the most restrictive provisions of HB 2 [Texas' omnibus anti-abortion law passed two years ago] can go into effect. The ruling on the draconian anti-choice law leaves eight legal abortion providers open in the state." The ruling stands to leave open only eight legal abortion providers open in the entire state of 27 million people.

The only remaining legal abortion providers in Texas are located in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with no legal abortion providers able to provide care in the half of the state that lies west of Interstate 35.

Texas has a population of 27 million and has the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country.

Texas abortion providers have 22 days before the Fifth Circuit's decision goes into effect. They will seek a stay from the court on its own ruling, and proceed to the Supreme Court if necessary.

...Texas Governor Greg Abbott, whose office defended HB 2 in court as the state's attorney general, praised the Fifth Circuit's ruling.

"I am pleased with the Fifth Circuit's decision to uphold HB 2 and the State of Texas will continue to fight for higher-quality healthcare standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable—the unborn," Abbott said in a statement.

Rage. Seethe. Boil. I have said many, many times that fetuses are now valued more highly than the people who carry them, and here is a perfect example: A governor of one of the largest states plainly saying, as if it's not even the least bit controversial, that the government has more interest in protecting "the unborn" than living, breathing pregnant people.

The Fifth Circuit's decision is appalling, and it's not even coherent

The Fifth Circuit said in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott that a couple of hundred miles within a state is not too far to travel for an abortion. Then it said in Jackson v. Currier that if those couple of hundred miles forces a patient to travel out of state, then it is too far. But then Tuesday, it ruled it was perfectly fine to make Texans travel out-of-state to access abortion care. Travel across the border to Mexico, however, is a different question. On that, the Fifth Circuit punted.

If you're confused, you should be. When read together, the Fifth Circuit's recent decisions make no sense, if what you're looking for is a clear and precise statement of the law as to how far is too far to travel before a regulation becomes an undue burden. They only make sense if what you're looking for is a trail of crumbs to entice the conservatives on the Roberts Court to follow the Fifth Circuit's lead and offer legal cover for abortion restrictions nationwide.

The Fifth Circuit is forcing a Supreme Court appeal. And thus will abortion come before the Supreme Court once again.

As of now, the more than five million people in Texas who are of reproductive age and can get pregnant have been left with eight abortion clinics between them. And this will be particularly hard on Texas' Latina population: Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, issued this statement on the Fifth Circuit's decision:

[T]he overall impact of HB 2 will be devastating for Texas Latinas. Let's be clear: the purpose of HB 2 was never to protect women, but to make abortion — which is a safe and legal procedure — out of reach in the state of Texas.

While this decision is a loss for all Texas women, it's particularly threatening for Latinas, who have been among the hardest hit by recent clinic closures throughout the state. Nearly 40 percent of Texas women are Latina, and Latinas are twice as likely to experience unintended pregnancies as non-Latina white women and more likely to be of reproductive age. Latinas already face formidable barriers to healthcare, including: poverty, lack of transportation, linguistic and cultural barriers, and restrictions on healthcare for immigrant women. This means that Latinas are among the most likely to rely on the very clinics HB 2 was designed to shut down. Today's ruling is a step backwards for human rights in Texas.

I am angry about what has happened in Texas, and what is happening to abortion rights and abortion access across this country. I am angry about the pregnant people's lives who will be forever changed because they can't access what is supposed to be a guaranteed right to a legal medical procedure that gives them control over their reproduction. I am angry about what this communicates to me, and every woman, about our worth to our country.

I am angry, and I am stricken with grief for everything we are losing.