The harsh reality of abortion restrictions in Texas

Wendy Davis' famous pink shoes

In 2013, Texas passed extreme restrictions on abortion to shutter one third of the state’s providers. We’ve written a ton here at Feministing about the inspiring feminist army that rose up to fight these restrictions, about our hero Wendy Davis who will be the next governor of Texas and help change this horrible reality, and about the fact that despite these wins, the anti-choice establishment has already had success and likely will be able to continue in limiting access to reproductive healthcare.

Today, a federal appeals court is set to review the law again. Sadly, we’re not expecting a good outcome, as this court is stacked with ultra-conservative Bush appointees.

Right now, we’re seeing the cruelty of anti-abortion legislation play out in Texas. Marlise Munoz, a Texas resident who was declared brain dead before Thanksgiving when she was 14 weeks pregnant, has been kept on life support despite her clearly expressed wishes to her husband, Erick Munoz, that she did not want this to happen. The Munoz family is being forced to go through this cruel ordeal because Texas is one of 12 states with laws on the book that won’t let someone who’s pregnant pass in peace when they’re brain dead. This despite the fact that doctors don’t even know if the pregnancy will be viable (which shouldn’t matter but just compounds the inhumanity of the law).

Yesterday, Lindsay Beyerstein published an excellently reported article at Al Jazeera America about a region of Texas that is especially hard hit by abortion restrictions (as an aside, let me just say how grateful I am for Al Jazeera America, which is consistently publishing the kind of excellent, thoughtful, reality-based reporting that’s all but disappeared from US-based journalism). Here’s an excerpt:

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a fertile floodplain nearly the size of Connecticut on the southernmost tip of Texas and home to a Latino-majority population of 1.3 million. Dubbed the Texas tropics by guidebooks, the Valley is a paradise for bird-watchers and citrus growers — and one of the poorest regions in the country. Its four counties are among the 100 poorest in the United States. Starr County is the third-poorest in the nation, with an annual per capita income of just $7,609; per capita incomes in the other three Valley counties hover around $10,000. An estimated 350,000 Valley residents live in “colonias,” rural slums along the U.S.-Mexico border that often lack basic amenities such as paved roads, running water and streetlights. Nearly 40 percent of Hidalgo County residents rely on food stamps.

There were 2,634 abortions, the vast majority performed at clinics, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in 2011, the last year for which data are available. Demographers estimate that the new law will cause more than 22,000 Texas women to forgo abortions in 2014.

The region is a microcosm of the abortion-rights battles playing out around the nation. Since 2010, anti-abortion activists have stepped up their efforts to restrict abortion access by imposing medically unnecessary regulations on abortion providers. Bills requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals were introduced in nine states this year and were enacted in four: Alabama, Wisconsin and North Dakota, in addition to Texas. So far, courts in Alabama, Wisconsin and North Dakota have blocked their laws from going into effect, pending court challenges, but the 5th Circuit ruled that Texas’ law could go into effect while Planned Parenthood challenges it in court.

Go check out the full article, which is a must read.

Beyerstein opens with an anecdote about the Lilith Fund, which offers limited financial assistance to patients in Texas who can’t afford abortions. I’ve spent time answering calls for an abortion fund, and speaking with client after client who needed an abortion and didn’t know if they’d be able to access it gave me a picture of this cruel reality that no discussion about politics or “choice” can touch. When you’ve spoken with multiple mothers about the possibility of their children not getting Christmas presents, or about pawning their much-needed family car to pay for the procedure, the way abortion restrictions target the most vulnerable becomes painfully, humanly real.

We’re returning to the pre-Roe v. Wade status quo on abortion in the US, where the procedure is only accessible to the most wealthy and privileged. This battle is happening in the states, and Texas is facing some of the worst fallout. We badly need to turn the tide on abortion, badly need a pro-active movement to make reproductive healthcare accessible to everyone.

Jos Truitt Jos Truitt can’t wait till Wendy Davis is governor of Texas.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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