In case it wasn’t clear from previous reports, the Texas abortion ban, which took effect on 1 September, leaves enforcement up to individual citizens, to sue anyone who they think has provided or aided someone to have an abortion if the woman is beyond six weeks of pregnancy.
These cowboys also passed a law in June 2021 allowing people to carry concealed handguns without any permit that also went into effect in Texas on 1 September. That’s in case anyone thought they valued people’s lives.
Vice.com reported that a Texas anti-abortion group had set up a website to enable Texans to become anonymous “pro-life whistleblowers” and to get help to sue them. That website was soon beset by trolls. (A troll, according to Wikipedia, is a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community.) When social media users on platforms like Twitter and TikTok discovered the website, they issued calls to spam it. “Wouldn’t it be so awful if we sent in a bunch of fake tips and crashed the site?” asked one. The amount of spam was enormous, according to The Verge.com. Then the host website kicked them off the site, and they moved to at least one other but didn’t last long there either. Whatever the final blow, the whistleblower website is apparently no longer active. This is social media advocacy at its most effective!
Action by Texas abortion providers & Whole Women’s Health statement
Abortion providers in Texas have been very active. Meanwhile, in a more traditional form of protest, more than 20 Texas abortion providers sued the state to stop the ban from taking effect. They said the law “will create absolute chaos in Texas and irreparably harm Texans in need of abortion services.” A hearing in that case was set in late August but did not succeed.
Whole Women’s Health in Fort Worth, headed by Amy Hagstrom Miller, was the group of clinics that took the emergency motion to the Supreme Court with Center for Reproductive Rights. She made the following statement at a press conference on 1 September 2021 (these are excerpts):
“We are an independent abortion provider operating four clinics in the state of Texas… We are the lead plaintiff in the case Whole Woman’s Health et al., v. Jackson, et al, challenging this atrocious abortion ban. You may recall that not so long-ago Whole Woman’s Health was also the lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, in a similar situation where we had to challenge multiple restrictions on access to abortion in the state of Texas… We had a significant victory in the Supreme Court in 2016, but unfortunately part of being an abortion provider in this country, especially working in the South and Midwest, often requires litigation, a high level of advocacy, and a deep of commitment in order to keep our clinics open and available to serve the people who need access to safe abortion in our communities. So, here we are again. Waiting on the Supreme Court.
“This morning I woke up with a feeling of deep sadness. I’m worried. I’m numb. I’d like to take a moment to share with you all what the final hours of legal abortion care looked like in Texas last night. Whole Woman’s Health had staff and physicians providing abortions in Texas until 11:56pm CST. That was the time we finished our last abortion in Fort Worth. All day, our waiting rooms were filled with patients and their loved ones in all four of our Texas clinics. They were desperate to get an abortion before this law went into effect.
“Last night we had a physician who has worked with us for decades in tears as he tried to complete the abortions for all the folks that were waiting in our Fort Worth waiting room… Our Director of Clinical Services, was on site working with this physician to see every single patient before last night’s deadline. She called me at 10:00pm CST with 27 patients left in the waiting room. Both she and the physician were crying, asking “What can we do? How can we be sure that we can see all these folks?” Keep in mind that the anti-abortion protesters were outside from the moment we opened at 7:30am until we closed at midnight. Once it got dark [outside] they brought giant lights and shined them on the parking lot. We were under surveillance.
“This ban is not abstract or theoretical. This culture of threats, intimidation and surveillance is not make-believe. This is real for our team. Yesterday, the protesters called the police twice and the fire department once in Fort Worth – all in an attempt to find some law that we might be breaking, some way to stop us from providing abortion care to the people who were waiting. And of course, we weren’t breaking any laws; we were responding to our community and trying to care for the people that deserved access to safe abortion yesterday. They are the same people that deserve that access today, just like they did yesterday.
“In the end, we were able to see all the patients on our schedule, and those folks got the care they needed. I want to make it clear that today Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance clinics are still providing care, but now adhering to the new restrictive law…
“We love our patients; we love our partners, and our supporters. Our work is not over. We will continue fighting and doing everything we can for Texans’ rights to safe abortion and compassionate care, but this cannot only be up to abortion care clinics to fix. This is a much larger problem. This law opens a bounty system, a vigilante kind of scenario that can call into question anyone who supports access to abortion – providers, friends, family, counselors, ministers – we are all at risk.
“Every one of us knows somebody or loves somebody who has had an abortion in their lifetime. We all know someone who might need an abortion at some point. I ask you, is this is this the kind of environment we want somebody we love to go through to access safe abortion care? The fact is, most Texans did not want this bill….
“At this moment we are in an unprecedented and complicated situation, filled with uncertainties. But we are sure of this: our values, our commitment, and what we stand for has not changed. Whole Woman’s Health believes that abortion is a moral and social good. We know that access to abortion makes communities safer and healthier. And we know Texans deserve better than this. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Party senators are preparing a bill intended to protect abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s decision not to block the Texas ban. However, many think the US Senate’s filibuster rule is likely to imperil the bill, according to a leading Democratic senator. (Filibustering is making prolonged speeches that obstruct progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures. It’s a way of “talking out” a bill (a form of cheating, some people think.)
The Biden administration sued the state of Texas on 8 September 2021 to try to block the Texas abortion law. The suit filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Austin asks the court judge to “protect the rights that Texas has violated” by declaring the abortion law unconstitutional and issuing an injunction blocking its enforcement. At a news conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the ban “is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent. This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear,” warning that what he called the “bounty hunter” element of the law may become “a model for action in other areas by other states and with respect to other constitutional rights or judicial precedents.” The US government, Garland added, has a responsibility “to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights”. This suit contextualises this anti-abortion law as an attempt to destroy the rule of law altogether, a threat that is taking place in other countries as well.
SOURCES: Whole Women’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller, 1 September 2021 ; Reuters, 4 September 2021 ; Reuters, 5 September 2021 ; Washington Post, by Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, 9 September 2021 ; PHOTO: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File photo