Since early 2020, I’ve driven to a local abortion clinic a few times a month. As a member of the Bridge Collective, a practical support abortion fund in Central Texas, it’s not unusual for me to pick up a pregnant person an hour away, bring them to their abortion appointment, then have another volunteer drive them home a few hours later. The drive and cost of the procedure are often significant barriers for patients, and abortion funds like ours help low-income people access the health care they deserve.
But I haven’t been back to an abortion clinic since September 1, when the Texas law known as SB 8 went into effect.
By now, the world has heard about SB 8. Written by Heritage Foundation lawyers and already being copied in other state legislatures, the draconian law outlaws abortions at six weeks gestation—that means six weeks from the start of the person’s previous period. Worse, the bill encourages vigilante enforcement, allowing strangers to sue anyone who “aids and abets” a person getting an abortion after six weeks and to collect a minimum reward of $10,000 if the lawsuit is successful.
Intentionally vague (what is aiding and abetting?) and a constitutional nightmare, the law was signed by Governor Greg Abbott this spring before going into effect in September
Despite two separate lawsuits challenging the law, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed it to go into effect.
Abbott hoped that signing the law would stop all abortion procedures in Texas. He’s close to getting his wish. The number of legal abortions performed in Texas in September dropped 50% compared to the same time last year. Most people don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks, and self-managed abortion is legally risky, meaning that many must leave the state for care. Depending on where in Texas they live, patients can face up to 12-hour drives to neighboring states—if they can afford the procedure or time off work at all. For un- documented people in the Rio Grande Valley, an area surrounded by highly militarized Border Patrol checkpoints, SB 8 may put legal abortion care completely out of reach.
Out-of-state providers are stepping up as best they can. The two Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma saw 35 patients from Texas between September and November 2020 — and 653 Texans during that same period in 2021.
Overall, Planned Parenthood reported a 1,082% national increase in patients with Texas ZIP codes seek- ing care at out-of-state clinics. We are facing compounding crises, as we saw in early September, when Louisiana clinics were shut down due to impacts of Hurricane Ida, and abortion seekers in both states had to delay care. It is time for people to be able to access this time-sensitive, life-saving health care quickly, for free, within their own communities, and to have it protected by federal law.
Abortion funds, especially those in the South, know this. Our clients are overwhelmingly low income, with- out the luxuries of paid time off, expendable income, or reliable childcare. We’ve been funding procedures, travel expenses, and even diapers since long before SB 8 went into effect. And for decades we’ve seen the everyday impacts of the Hyde Amendment, a federal budgetary rider first enacted in 1977 that prohibits Medicaid from covering abortion procedures. The pandemic has worsened the conditions for low-income pregnant people seeking abortions across the country. And yet, the Democratic Party is failing to pass meaningful paid leave or federal abortion legislation, despite controlling Congress and the White House.
Since SB 8 went into effect, DSA members in Texas have worked along- side abortion funds to make clear that the fight for abortion is inextricably tied to the fights for economic, racial, and gender justice. The North Texas Afro-Socialist and Socialists of Color Caucus collaborated with the Afiya Center and other BIPOC-led groups to hold the Dallas Reproductive Liberation March in early October. “We have to take on white supremacy, while still fighting for bodily autonomy,” North Texas Afro-Soc member Radiance Bean said, tying SB 8 to the murder of Breonna Taylor. “We have to be fighting for these issues collectively—fighting for reproductive jus- tice, racial justice, against police brutality—together.” Austin DSA members, linking the fight against SB 8 to the fight against police, also crowd canvassed at the Austin Women’s March to encourage voters to reject a right-wing backed ballot measure to permanently increase the Austin Police Department’s annual budget. They carried “Reproductive Justice NOW!” posters and had socialist feminist zines and abortion resource stickers.
Houston DSA marched with a banner proudly declaring “Free Abortion On Demand Without Apology.” In each city, DSA members demanded abortion justice. Now we need to build the movement to win it.
Internationally, we’ve seen the expansion of abortion rights in countries where organizers built strong mass movements that mobilized to pressure lawmakers and the judiciary into ceding to their demands. As this article goes to print, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to grant any relief for Texans regarding SB 8. Regardless of what they decide on this bill, though, their inaction toward protecting our right to abortion shows that we need to build a mass movement to defend and expand abortion rights.
We must tie the fight for abortion with the rest of our work. The spring Fund-a-Thon (March-May), which DSA conducts every year to aid abortion access, is a great opportunity to raise money for local abortion funds. It also provides an opportunity to talk with people about Medicare for All and health justice and invite them in to build power with us. We must organize nationwide for free childcare, highlighting the failure of the Democrats to deliver for working-class parents. And as we’ve seen from our comrades in Latin America, we must be in the streets demanding an end to the violence against the working class, fighting for the world we deserve.