I woke up yesterday morning feeling particularly heavy. Maybe you’re feeling it, too. After all, it’s been just a few days since the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a particularly cruel abortion ban, SB 8, could remain in effect.
Not only does SB 8 prohibit abortions at just six weeks of gestation, it also allows everyday citizens to enforce the law. Through abortion bounty hunting, individuals may win $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone, from an Uber driver to a friend to a doctor, who “aids or abets” a woman who gets an abortion after six weeks of gestation. It feels unfathomable that we live in a country where this type of law is permitted to stand. And my heart breaks for the millions of women who are suffering and will continue to suffer because of these draconian measures.
The fact of the matter is that this isn’t a game. This is real life. For example, I know of a young woman who recently found out she was pregnant at eight weeks gestation. She wanted an abortion but was confused about her options thanks to the awful Crisis Pregnancy Center propaganda that is on no less than four billboards in her Wisconsin community. So distraught she couldn’t get out of bed, she turned to her friend who directed her to credible information. The young woman proceeded with an abortion, with her friend providing nonjudgmental support the entire time. Afterward, she felt a major sense of relief and empowerment. She told me that her body felt like hers again. (This is a common reaction. A study has shown that 99 percent of women who receive abortions feel relief — not regret).
If this were Texas, however, none of this would have been possible. The young woman would have been too late to have an abortion and would have had to spend considerable time, money and travel to go to a clinic in a surrounding state. And even then she might not have been guaranteed an appointment. As an Oklahoma abortion provider explains, “Our phones have not stopped ringing in the last six months. …We’re being forced to turn people away in desperate situations.” And should someone in the Lone Star State have discovered that her friend provided her with information and support, the friend could have been sued for up to $10,000.
This has been the current reality in Texas for more than six months. And, shockingly, the Texas high court has sustained this dystopia. In response to the ruling on March 11, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, “This is a win for thousands of unborn Texans and I’m proud to defend those who do not yet have a voice.” Texas Right to Life tweeted: “We’re grateful that the law will continue saving thousands of lives.” And the Human Coalition Action, an anti-abortion group, exclaimed, “It is the most successful piece of pro-life legislation in 50 years and should be replicated everywhere.”
I shudder to think that this is exactly what is going to happen. It is not even three months into 2022 and already more than 230 bills restricting abortion access have been filed in 39 state legislatures across the nation. Idaho, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have recreated their own versions of SB 8. In the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin, the Senate recently approved a Texas copycat bill, although, thankfully, our current governor can be counted on to veto it. And in roughly three months, we will hear the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Should the ultraconservative court rule in its favor, the very foundation of Roe v. Wade will crumble and it will be every state for itself.
(Please consider donating, deductible for income tax purposes, to the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin, co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF’s principal founder, which annually helps an average of 900-1,000 Wisconsin residents without means to exercise their constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade.)
I dropped off muffins and a thank-you card at a Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday morning. It was a small gesture to let them know that in the sea of all of these attacks, their work is appreciated. As I parked the car, I saw two women marching back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the clinic wearing “Pray to End Abortion” sandwich boards. They and their fellow anti-abortion folks had been swapping out shifts for weeks.
When I returned to my car, the women had stopped marching and were talking and laughing about something. They had, clearly, seen me. I drove off wondering if my deep sense of despair paralleled their sense of impending victory. As the Religious Right likes to say, “The end is near.” And I fear that in this instance, it may be right.