The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is deeply troubled by the United States Supreme Court’s September 2nd decision not to block passage of Texas Senate Bill 8. The new law denies women and all people capable of becoming pregnant1 the constitutional right to an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy—a time by which few even know they are pregnant.
The decision stands in sharp contrast to almost 50 years of legal precedent. The protections that guarantee a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion without government intervention—under the Court’s own decision in Roe v. Wade—are at risk of crumbling. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance—of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.”
By not challenging the new law, the Supreme Court has, in essence, opened the door for other states that choose to follow suit. And under the new law, there are no exceptions for cases involving rape or incest. Further, the law empowers—and incentivizes—private citizens, regardless of any connection with a woman trying to get an abortion, to “sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion — including those who give a woman a ride to a clinic or provide financial assistance to obtain an abortion.” By affording private citizens the right to sue clinics and individuals for “aiding and abetting” abortions performed after the six- week mark, the law, as Chief Justice Roberts explained in his dissenting opinion, is “essentially delegat[ing] enforcement to…the populace at large.”
Laws like Texas’, historically, have not prevented abortions; they have only made it more difficult for people to access safe and local clinics that provide comprehensive reproductive health care. According to global research by the Guttmacher Institute and contrary to the held views that restricting access reduces abortions, “the abortion rate is actually higher in countries that restrict abortion access than in those that do not,” and “unintended pregnancy rates are highest in countries that restrict abortion access and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal.” The ramifications of this law, as evidence has shown time and again in the U.S. and worldwide, will be far reaching. Proximity and safe protocols are vital to ensure the health and well-being of all people; this law only increases risk.
Roe v. Wade ensured a person’s right to choose would be upheld across the country. The new Texas law is unconstitutional, runs counter to decades of evidence, increases health risks, and imposes state-level restrictions on women’s bodies and reproductive rights.
For 45 years, ICRW has steadfastly defended the right to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, here in the U.S. and around the world. Reproductive rights are human rights. We must do everything in our power to uphold those rights and ensure comprehensive health care is guaranteed to all.
For those interested in learning and doing more, we would encourage you to follow local reproductive justice leaders who are already doing the work in Texas, including @lilithfund, @WholeWomans, @avowtexas, @PPGreaterTX, @RAICESTEXAS.
1. Including cisgender women, queer women, transmasculine and nonbinary people, and all those capable of bearing children.