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A Devastating Loss For Texas Women

Brigitte Amiri,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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March 28, 2014

Today is one of the worst days in my professional career. I have been working to defend the rights of women and families to make their own private decisions about abortion for well over a decade. There have been wins and there have been losses. But no loss has been as profound as the one we got this week.

Yesterday a federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that has left large parts of the state without an abortion provider. Women who already are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table for their families must now travel hundreds of miles to obtain abortion care. For many, the obstacles will be too burdensome to overcome.

For example, one woman in the Rio Grande Valley who showed up to her appointment the day the law took effect was devastated to learn that she could not have an abortion in her area. She was happily married with several children, but she could not afford another. In tears, she said that she did not have enough money to travel north and had no choice but to carry the pregnancy to term. Other women have resorted to self-inducing abortion by getting pills from across the border in Mexico.

How did this happen?

Despite overwhelming opposition, lawmakers in Texas passed a bill that requires doctors who provide abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? After all, we all are concerned about women’s health. But just a quick look below the surface reveals that the law has nothing to do with women’s health and everything to do with forcing women’s health centers to shut their doors.

You might start by asking who proposed this law. Was it a medical organization? Nope. A doctors’ groups? Nope. All of the major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Texas Hospitals Association, all opposed this law. Rather, this bill came from Americans United for Life (AUL), a group dedicated to making abortion if not illegal, then impossible to get. AUL has touted restrictions like these as great ways to shut down abortion providers.

And tellingly, this law only applies to doctors who provide abortion. It doesn’t apply to doctors who provide other types of outpatient procedures, even those that carry far greater risks than abortion. But the appeals court overlooked this evidence and overlooked evidence demonstrating the devastating effect this law has on Texas women.

This isn’t just a problem for women and families in Texas. AUL and others like them are pushing these bills all over the country as part of a coordinated assault on women’s ability to make their own decisions about their health care. Similar laws have passed in Alabama, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Mississippi, and the list is growing.

At the ACLU we are fighting these laws in court. But the Texas decision shows that we can’t always count on judges to stop these laws. That is why it’s so important that we stop these laws before they pass. Our elected representatives must hear that we won’t sit idly by while they continue their attacks on women’s health. Stand with us.

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