Texas has already criminalized abortion several times over, but the far right is continuing its onslaught against abortion access in the 2023 legislative session that began Jan. 10. Now, the state legislature is attacking aspects of bodily autonomy, and remaining protections for reproductive rights, that women and many trans people still enjoy. But the fight is not over: Activists from dozens of organizations across five major cities in Texas are planning a statewide day of action on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
After overturning abortion rights in the Supreme Court, anti-abortion activists, despite having little popular support, are aggressively pushing to further restrict the limited access and options Texans have for abortion care and even birth control. Lawsuits targeting federal agencies, to be heard by Trump-appointed judges, mean that Texas’ assault on abortion rights now threatens the whole country.
What seems like a point of strength for the far right, however, may prove to be their undoing. Mass protests have forced cities and the federal government to act in defense of some abortion rights, and the resistance coming from within the state itself could shake the anti-abortion lobby’s weak foundation. This is ultimately not a struggle between “red” and “blue” states. It is a struggle between the large majority of people who support and benefit from abortion rights; and a small group of wealthy capitalists using lies abut abortion to maintain their reign over people’s right to health care.
Bills target the right to travel for out-of-state abortions
Having banned abortion within the state, legislators are now attacking the right of people to travel outside the state for these same procedures.
HB 787 prevents businesses who aid their employees in an out-of-state abortion from receiving tax incentives. HB 61 aims at restricting governmental entities from providing assistance to abortion seekers or providers.
The Texas Freedom Caucus, which is made up of 11 of the most right-wing Republicans, has also targeted a Dallas-based law firm, Sidley Austin, with threats of criminal charges and disbarment for providing their employees with abortion-related assistance such as travel reimbursement.
The right to interstate travel is protected in the Constitution, but this is a de facto attack on that right and the right to health care. The Texas economy also relies heavily on state-sponsored tax incentives to large companies, such as Tesla draining tens of millions of dollars from an Austin-area school district. If successful, HB 787 will provide businesses with a ready-made excuse to deny health care to their Texas employees and punish any businesses who stick to their principles.
With abortion banned, birth control, emergency medical care now in the crosshairs
HB 319 would provide legal protection for anyone who refuses to participate in providing health care for reasons of “conscience.” Texas already has a state law that protects the right to refuse to provide abortions due to moral or religious principles. This expands that state law so that any health care practice could be denied if the practitioner felt a “moral” or “religious” objection to that practice. This would most commonly be used to deny the right to birth control.
Similar attacks on birth control have come through the courts. The first major blow was delivered in a ruling on Dec. 20 by U.S. District Judge Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee and former “religious liberty” lawyer. The ruling stated that the federally funded Title X program, which provides free, confidential birth control to anyone, is in violation of Texas family codes that allows parents the “right to consent to … medical and dental care” for their children. This makes it practically impossible for a teen in Texas to acquire birth control without their parents’ knowledge.
Rep. Matt Shaheen is targeting out-of-state providers who offer telehealth to Texans seeking medical abortion with the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. The bill would require providers to register with state agencies and follow state abortion laws. Laws passed during the last session limit the administration of the medication to 49 days after gestation, require in-person exams, and make mailing the medication in the state illegal.
Banning websites, cross-county prosecutions: the Wild West of anti-abortion bills
Far right lawmakers have promised more anti-abortion bills this session and have until March 10 to submit them.
At the same time, the modest wins of abortion protection resolutions at the city and county level are under threat. Since the overturn of Roe, district attorneys from five counties have publicly stated that they will not pursue criminal charges for abortion cases, and many cities have passed versions of the GRACE Act, which partially decriminalizes abortion. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Republican lawmakers have promised to introduce legislation that would allow other DAs to prosecute outside of their jurisdiction, undoing that protection.
Attorney General Ken Paxton is also gunning for a federal protection, the Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act, in a lawsuit. The EMTALA requires physicians to treat all patients, including pregnant ones, in medical emergencies regardless of state laws on abortion.
An effort to ban access to websites that provide medical abortion pills is also in the works, and the deceptively named group Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is bringing a lawsuit against the FDA to stop the approval of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol for abortion. Nearly half of all abortions in the United States are medical and use these drugs. The same judge that ruled in the Title X case against minors’ right to access birth control is also set to rule in this case. If he rules in favor of AHM, it could stop all sales and shipment of the drugs in the entire country.
Texas’ anti-abortion politics going national, but struggle is intensifying from within
In the days after the defeat of Roe, the Democratic Party attempted to capitalize on their own defeat by encouraging people to vote for them — in November, months after the deed had been done. Democratic states have been content to advertise the legality of abortion in their states as an end in itself. Large Texas cities have sometimes made defenses of abortion which are now being challenged.
The smug message from many high-level Democrats has been variants of: “red states and rural counties voted for this, but we are better, and abortion is still legal in blue states.”
This is a terrible and dangerous misreading of the nationwide assault on abortion rights, and an insult to the 89% of Texans who support abortion access, not to mention the many cities marching in solidarity with people in southern states. The battle for abortion access is not a regional issue that can be ignored outside of red states.
The far-right faction of the Republican party, bolstered by a judicial system that has always ruled against democracy, fully intends to do away with abortion rights in every state in the country. The South has been the base of their operations not because the people support their agenda, but because the working class is so thoroughly oppressed in southern states.
All across the country — urban and rural, North and South — people have turned out en masse to show their support for abortion rights. Saving and expanding abortion rights in the United States will require a nationwide mass movement that puts regional cultural divides aside, united on all fronts against the extreme anti-democratic agenda of the far right.
Texas activists are planning a statewide day of action on the 50th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision to keep the fight moving forward. The organizations mobilizing represent some of the broadest coalitions in recent years, Socialists, progressive groups, Black, Latino, and Chicano neighborhood organizations, domestic workers’ unions, immigrant rights activists, and of course feminists are joining with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations to build a mass movement for abortion rights. Organizers are fighting for four key demands:
1. Abolish the filibuster
2. Repeal the Hyde Amendment
3. Stop publicly funding “crisis pregnancy centers”
4. Provide abortion access on federal lands and facilities
Now is not the time to despair, but the time to spring into organized action! Anyone interested in getting involved can contact these Texas branches of the Party for Socialism and Liberation to get involved: