Texas offers a real-time glimpse into what would be a striking new national landscape if the Supreme Court drastically curtailed abortion rights: GOP-led states allowing almost no access to abortion, and women roaming hundreds of kilometers to terminate their pregnancy.
No longer a distant prospect, both sides of the still controversial abortion debate are actively preparing for life after Roe v. Wade.
What if the Supreme Court uses its pending Mississippi case to overturn a national abortion right that has been in place since 1973? Texas has been there for three months.
On September 1, a state law went into effect banning abortion at around six weeks, before some women even knew they were pregnant. And so far the Supreme Court has refused to block it – showing no urgency as it allows the country’s most restrictive abortion law for more than 50 years to remain in force.
“What we’ve been through over the past three months in Texas is a glimpse of a post-Roe world,” said John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group. .
“You will have conservative states passing very bold pro-life laws to protect pregnant women and innocent children from abortion. And then you have states that become destination states where people travel. “
For Texas women, these destinations since September include not only neighboring Oklahoma and Louisiana – states where GOP lawmakers could also further restrict abortion based on the upcoming Supreme Court opinion – but also far than the west and east coasts, according to abortion providers and their allies. Some providers in Texas say the volume of patients in their clinics has dropped to just one-third of usual levels.
During nearly two hours of argument on Wednesday, the six conservative Supreme Court justices indicated they would enforce Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks. It will be months before a decision is rendered. Several indicated that Roe herself was in danger.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health which operates four clinics in Texas, heard little sign of encouragement as she listened to the judges. She said she had been doing “post-Roe planning” for several years now, including maps in her office that show what travel for women will look like in states with Texan-style restrictions.
So far, its Texas clinics are seeing only 20 to 30 percent of the number of patients they treated a year ago at this time. Her Dallas clinic is less crowded because it is closer to neighboring states with less restrictive abortion laws. Further south, at his clinic along the US-Mexico border, patients “are desperately trying to get in as fast as they can,” including some who don’t yet know they’re pregnant.
Others who arrive are told they are too far advanced to terminate their pregnancies under Texas law.
“We always see them a bit frozen and shocked in a way, and not necessarily directly in a course of action on what’s to come,” Hagstrom Miller said. “It kind of surprised some of us. You know, we thought maybe we would be put in the position of making a referral and trying to make the next step easier for them. But I think the people are just stunned. ”
To complicate matters for providers in Texas, another new restriction came into effect Thursday, which criminalizes sending abortion-inducing drugs in the mail and bans it after seven weeks of pregnancy. Hagstrom Miller said 65% of her patients choose medical abortions, which have grown in popularity since regulators began allowing them two decades ago.
The Biden administration and Texas providers have sued the Texas virtual abortion ban, but the Supreme Court’s pace on it surprised both sides.
The tribunal expressed hope that it would act very quickly when it agreed to hear cases on an accelerated schedule that has been reserved for some of the most important cases in its history. These include Bush vs. Gore after the 2000 election, the Pentagon documents, and the Watergate tapes, all of which were heard and decided in days or weeks, not months.
As for the Texas law, the way it is worded has so far made it exceptionally difficult to challenge in court. The question the judges are considering is whether the Justice Department and abortion providers can even challenge the law in federal court.
It is impossible to say where things stand in the Supreme Court, where justices generally exchange and review opinions in private from both sides before rendering a decision.
With no action so far, it seems clear that the tribunal lacks five votes, the majority of the nine members, to suspend Texas law.
When abortion providers asked the court to prevent the law from coming into force, the judges voted down 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining his three Liberal colleagues in dissent.
Dr Bhavik Kumar, a member of the medical staff at Planned Parenthood in Houston, estimated that the number of patients he has treated since the Texas law came into effect has been reduced by 30 to 50 percent.
Clinics in neighboring states, he said, are experiencing delays in scheduling patients coming from Texas. And that doesn’t take into account pregnant women who are just too poor to afford a trip to another state.
“Thinking of the states they can go to, we know they just can’t handle the volume of patients who need care,” he said. “It is very scary to think of how we will provide care.”
Sherman reported from Washington.
The Independent Gt