On May 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Texas Senate Bill 8, a near-total ban on abortion.
SB 8 is uniquely cruel in that it not only bans abortion at the six-week mark (a time when most people don’t even realize they are pregnant), but it also includes a far-reaching and intentionally broad provision which allows private citizens to sue an abortion provider or any person who “aids and abets” another in accessing an abortion.
Texas law part of nationwide attacks on Roe v. Wade
The recent attacks on abortion both in Texas and around the nation are part of a decades-long right wing assault on reproductive rights has led to this point, endangering women and anyone at risk of facing unwanted pregnancy, particularly poor and working class people. The Trump administration’s appointment of three deeply conservative justices to the Court, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, increased the likelihood that the court would side with reactionary anti-woman forces.
On May 25, just one week after SB 8 was signed into law, the Texas legislature passed a corresponding ‘trigger’ bill, SB 9, which would outlaw abortion completely if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is overturned. Abbott is expected to sign this bill as well.
Just days before Abbott signed SB 8, on May 17, the conservative majority Supreme Court agreed to review a case challenging the state of Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Mississippi ban, like many others imposed in states over the course of the last 5 years was explicitly written to invite a legal challenge and bring a ruling on abortion rights to the Supereme Court.
The deeply reactionary character of the current Supreme Court — Justice Barrett has called Roe “barbaric,” and Justice Thomas has said, “Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled” — is not reflected in greater American society. Instead, the vast majority (nearly 80%) of people, and an even higher percentage of young people, support the right to abortion.
Abortion penalties likened to bounties
Since Texas state officials cannot ban abortion before viability under Roe, they have opted to put the power into the hands of anti-choice citizens to harass, intimidate, and impede anyone involved in the process.
Per SB 8, lawsuits can now be brought against anyone who “(1) performs or induces an abortion in violation of this subchapter; (2) knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise, if the abortion is performed or induced in violation of this subchapter, regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the abortion would be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter; or (3) intends to engage in the conduct described by Subdivision (1) or (2).”
This means any person involved with an abortion after the six-week mark (even someone who “intends” to assist, but doesn’t follow through), is now subject to petty lawsuits and fines up to $10,000. Not only can abortion providers and clinic staff be sued, but friends, family members, clergy, and even rape crisis counselors as well. Donors to abortion funds, including those who don’t live in the state, are subject to these lawsuits if their money is put toward helping a Texan access abortion after six weeks.
“They’re trying to increase the shame and stigma around abortions,” said Kamyon Conner, Executive Director of Texas Equal Access Fund, an abortion fund primarily serving the northern region of Texas. “Access to abortion is not just about legality, it’s also about access to dignity and humanity.”
Alyssa Ramos, a TEA Fund client, board member, and We Testify storyteller said, “This law further stigmatizes and intimidates people into remaining silent about their abortions. It only serves to further traumatize.”
“Getting an abortion in Texas is already hard enough without any further legislation,” Ramos said. “My abortion in Texas was not an easy process, but I am still thankful I was able to receive the care I needed. Abortion is healthcare and healthcare is a human right.”
When asked what abortion funding would look like under SB 8, Conner brought up the lawsuits that would be inevitable under the law. “Abortion funds will be spinning our wheels if we have to fight these frivilous lawsuits,” she said. “It’s going to possibly affect us in the amount of people we’re able to help — which has never been enough; we’ve never been able to meet the need.”
Conner also said Texans seeking abortion will have new barriers to face, including a longer wait time and greater costs, but that abortion funds will continue to help navigate these barriers.
“If it means that TEA Fund and other abortion funds have to create an infastructure to help folks access abortion care outside of Texas, we are committed to doing that,” Conner said. “That is something we are already primed and ready to do because of the harsh regulations we have in our state. We’ve always been helping people access care outside of Texas.”
Texans protest abortion law — now is the time to organize
Protests have been forming in cities across the state since the signing of SB 8. The largest protest took place on May 29 at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
“We must do more than sustain existing abortion rights, because that alone will not ensure people can get an abortion. We’re already seeing that here in Texas,” said Conner, who spoke at the Capitol rally. “TEA Fund is determined to do what it takes to make sure that people can get abortion care and raise their families in safe, healthy, and thriving communities. But it’s not just going to be up to abortion activists and advocates, we need more folks behind us.
“This is not the time to be meek and mild, this is the time to be bold.”
Abortion is still legal in Texas. Please donate to an abortion fund in Texas today and follow funds on social media for updates and volunteer opportunities.