How Reproductive Rights Advocates Are Fighting Back Against an Extreme Anti-Choice Law in Texas
The fight for reproductive rights in Texas continues this week. Lawyers for the state and reproductive rights organizations are currently in court challenging the state’s ultra-conservative fetal tissue burial law. The law was passed by Texas lawmakers in 2017, and has been faced with legal resistance at every step of the way. This week, state lawyers and lawyers for reproductive rights organizations have been in federal court duking it out over whether or not the state has a right to impose such a draconian law.
The law, Senate Bill 8, requires abortion providers to either cremate or bury fetal tissue following abortion and miscarriage. In January of this year, federal judge David Alan Ezra ruled that the Texas Department of State Health Services’ argument in favor of enforcing the law lacked sufficient merit, the Texas Tribune reported. The Tribune further reports that a similar rule was struck down by US District Judge Sam Sparks in 2017 because the language of the rule was too vague.
Fortunately, the law has been thwarted at every step so far. The state is back in court again this week as lawyers argue that the law over-burdens patients seeking abortions. Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, the lead plaintiff in the Texas case, tells Brit + Co that the fetal remains burial law “has nothing to do with women’s health. It only stigmatizes and shames women.”
Hagstrom Miller adds that this law also makes it harder for patients to access abortion by increasing the red tape providers have to work through in order to offer abortion services. “It’s another back-door strategy to try to make it difficult for providers to comply with a regulation that has nothing to do with health or safety,” she says.
Abortion rights are already severely restricted in Texas. In recent years, TRAP laws have forced a number of clinics in Texas to close, and Republican Texas lawmakers seem never to take a break from pushing new anti-choice legislation. Hagstrom Miller tells us that Whole Woman’s Health, which runs abortion clinics in several states, says the organization “operates in two different Americas. Access to abortion in states like Minnesota and Maryland is totally different than in Texas.”
For the last two decades, Hagstrom Miller says, the Texas legislature has introduced new restrictions on abortion during every legislative term. In Texas and other predominantly conservative states, lawmakers have taken what she calls a “chipping away” strategy on reproductive rights. This includes 20-week bans, requiring abortion clinics to meet ambulatory hospital standards, and so on.
“On paper, there’s still a right to abortion, but in practice, it can be impossible to actually get an abortion,” she says.
With another right-wing Supreme Court Justice soon to take the bench, it’s important for the entire country to take note of the ways abortion rights have been weakened in states such as Texas.
“We’ve seen and lived through in Texas this sort of chipping away at Roe for about two decades,” Hagstrom Miller tells us. “So much of it is not in the interest of women’s health and safety, it’s about delaying, banning, and stigmatizing abortion.”
Abortion rights advocates say that with a SCOTUS stacked with conservatives, further erosion of abortion rights if not a full-blown repeal of Roe v. Wade is inevitable. But Hagstrom Miller explains that restrictions on abortion “Do not do anything to reduce the need [for abortions], they just block women from accessing safe and affordable care.”
This is why it’s imperative to fight laws that make abortion harder to access. “It’s always the right time to do the right thing,” Hagstrom Miller says. “We have to stand up to injustice even when the odds are against us.”
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(Images via Mark Wilson + Alex Wong/Getty Images)