2021 Special Legislative Session: What Changed for Texans?

After one of the most extreme regular legislative sessions in recent memory, Gov. Greg Abbott and his legislative allies used the second special session to steamroll the civil rights and liberties of all Texans — especially people of color and vulnerable communities — rather than solve the pressing issues facing our state.

Here are five ways that the lives of Texans will be impacted as a result:

1. Most Texans will not be able to access abortion.

The majority of Texans support abortion care. The near-total ban on abortion that went into effect September 1 restricts access to all abortion care, including medication abortion, after roughly six weeks. The Supreme Court declined to intervene and is allowing Texas to enforce the law while litigation continues. In addition to this six-week ban, the legislature passed an additional ban on access to medication abortion during the special session that criminalizes doctors with a felony offense for following FDA guidance.

2. It will be harder and scarier to vote, especially for communities of color and voters with disabilities.

Texas is already the hardest state in the country to vote — and Senate Bill 1 makes it even harder. Lawmakers ignored hundreds of hours of testimony from advocates and voters in enacting a law that bans drive-thru voting, restricts early voting hours, prevents disabled and limited English proficiency voters from receiving needed assistance, expands criminal penalties in the election code, and emboldens partisan poll watchers.

3. It will be more difficult for poor Texans to get out of jail, while wealthy Texans continue to buy their freedom.

Over 60% of people in Texas jails have not been convicted of a crime. Senate Bill 6 will make an unjust system worse by prohibiting certain people from being released from jail without first paying a bondsman or putting up cash. This imposes an absolute bar on release for people who are too poor to afford their bail, while allowing identically-situated people with money to purchase their liberty. 

4. Texas students won’t get an accurate and inclusive education.

Open and honest discussion about our history is essential to preparing kids for the future. House Bill 28 builds on the social studies ban passed during the regular legislative session by censoring classroom discussions of race and systemic racism in the entire school curriculum. This new law muzzles teachers and will erase education about the history of white supremacy, the legacy of slavery, and the achievements of people of color from Texas public schools.

5. Your tax dollars will fund the governor’s costly anti-immigrant agenda.

Texas does not have the power under the U.S. Constitution to engage in unilateral immigration enforcement. Yet, House Bill 9 will pour a staggering amount of money — over $1.7 billion — into the governor’s border boondoggle. The law will fund unconstitutional activities like border processing centers and the state border wall, which will lead to more racial profiling, over-policing, and the hyper-militarization of border communities. 

Texans will not forget this “suppression session” and the harm it has caused. We the people still hold the power to make change by engaging in all points of our democratic process, from elections to advocacy to education. We encourage all Texans to keep fighting for laws and lawmakers that make our lives and our communities better.

Consider signing up to volunteer for the ACLU of Texas.