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On May 21, 2019, a day of action was held in cities across the U.S. to “Stop the Bans” in response to the atrocious anti-abortion laws that were passed in Alabama, Ohio, and four other states. But while the nation is in uproar over these new laws, bad abortion bills have been slipping through the state legislature right here in Texas.
We are in the final days of the Texas legislative session. Though an outright abortion ban didn’t pass this session, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Texas anti-abortion legislators filed almost 40 bills — legislation that would infringe on Texans’ constitutionally protected rights to safe, legal abortion care.
One of those proposed bills included a complete ban on abortion that would subject a person to the death penalty for accessing abortion care — a ban that would have been more extreme than any other ban in the country.
While some of these more egregious bills didn’t pass, what we have seen in Texas are bills that slowly and steadily chip away at access to abortion. Afterall, a law doesn’t need to ban abortion outright for it to have major impacts on women, families, and entire communities.
These breadcrumb anti-abortion bills are no random coincidence; they are part of a concerted and strategic effort to stigmatize and delegitimize reproductive healthcare with the ultimate goal of outlawing abortion outright at the federal level.
For instance, this Texas legislative session saw the introduction of House Bill 16, legislation that would impose steep civil and criminal penalties on doctors for allegedly not providing care to a fetus born after an abortion. However, this is a solution in search of a problem: there have been zero reported cases of a child born after an abortion in Texas.
Despite that, the bill concerning this non-issue already passed the Texas House in April, later passing the Senate on May 16, 2019. HB 16 just has to be approved by the House one more time before it’s on its way to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.
Another bill the ACLU of Texas has been fighting this session is Senate Bill 22. This legislation would prevent local governments from partnering with abortion providers and their affiliates, cutting people’s access to healthcare. It ties the hands of local governments at a time when cities and counties already face significant challenges in providing access to quality, affordable healthcare for their residents.
Of course, the aim of these bills is not to actually protect fetuses or women’s health but instead to irresponsibly ramp up the rhetoric around abortion and target abortion providers in Texas who perform this incredibly safe medical procedure. Make no mistake, anti-abortion legislators have one goal in mind: to take away the right to abortion, plain and simple.
But if the national response to the abortion bans is indicative of anything, it’s that women and their allies are not putting up with these attacks. They are standing up at the legislature, at rallies, and at the polls to tell elected officials that abortion is healthcare and a constitutional right.
The ACLU of Texas was proud to partner with the other Trust. Respect. Access. coalition organizations during the Texas #StopTheBans rallies. We stand in solidarity with abortion providers and the hundreds of thousands of people who have had safe and legal abortions in the past and will need them in the future.
Abortion is still legal in Texas and it’s because of the people’s voice that it has stayed legal. But we have to keep fighting.
Find out who represents you and contact them to demand that they protect abortion rights in Texas. Collectively we can stop anti-abortion legislation from being the death by a thousand cuts to abortion rights in our state.