Texas’ Anti-Abortion Laws are Having a Grave Impact on Black Women

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 4.15.51 PMAs the Supreme Court prepares to hear opening arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt next month—the most significant abortion-related case to go before the court in about two decades—a network of 12 black women’s reproductive-justice organizations are speaking out against Texas’ HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill at the heart of the case.

According to an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, HB2 exacerbates the systemic barriers to accessing abortion and reproductive care already faced by black women. First, African Americans are the least likely to have access to comprehensive sex education and contraception, resulting in higher rates of unintended pregnancy. They are also more likely to suffer and die from pregnancy-related complications at four times the rate of white women.

Moreover, they are more likely to be uninsured, relying solely on clinics to provide a wide spectrum of services. Because HB2 has caused the shutdown of all but a handful of clinics in the state since its enactment in 2013, black women now have fewer options than ever for accessing reproductive care.

From the brief:

It is a clear that a significant number of African American women will be unable to overcome the barriers imposed by the challenged HB2 provisions outright and thereby will be ‘deter[red] from procuring an abortion as surely as if [Texas] had outlawed abortion in all cases.’

HB2 is a dangerous set of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws that imposes unreasonable and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics, including requirements to upgrade facilities to meet ambulatory surgical center standards (which can cost $1 million or more) and demanding doctors obtain admitting privileges from nearby hospitals. HB2 also limits access to medication abortion, forcing women to schedule an in-person consultation with the doctor dispensing the mifepristone-misoprostol regimen and implicitly banning abortion by telemedicine. Plus, HB2 bans abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.

As predicted, the impact of HB2 on Texas women in need of critical reproductive care has been disastrous. With fewer than 20 clinics now serving hundreds of thousands of women, wait times as long as 20 days to schedule an initial consultation are not only common—they’re expected. But that’s assuming women can even get to the clinic. With only 19 abortion providers operating statewide, most women must embark on a long, costly quest to the clinic, often requiring them to arrange for days off work and overnight accommodations to honor their appointments. And, because sweeping clinic closures reduce access to all reproductive services, women’s access to basic sexual health services such as contraception, STD testing and cancer screenings is also greatly reduced.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, a November 2015 study conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation project found at least 100,000 Texas women between the ages of 18-49 have attempted to self-induce abortion, highlighting the dangerous and potentially fatal lengths women in the state are willing to to go to in order to exercise a basic human right.

“Politicians who pass these types of laws do not care about the health and wellbeing of women. They are only interested in stopping access to abortions,” said Marcela Howell, executive director of In Our Own Voice. “We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will see right through this sham and uphold our constitutional right to access all reproductive healthcare services, including abortion care.”

For Howell, HB2 is just another obstacle standing in the way of 725,000 black women of reproductive age living in Texas accessing quality healthcare.

“The law’s practical effect,” she said, “is barring black women in Texas from exercising their legal right to an abortion.”

Graphic courtesy of the Texas Policy Evaluation Project

Lindsay_Kitty_HS1Kitty Lindsay is a Ms. blogger and works at the Feminist Majority Foundation. Follow her on Twitter!

Comments

  1. Lynda Crall says:

    If this doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know what will. I have always been pro choice and think it is only right to have the facilities to offer, ALL the services to women. Let’s hope that the Supreme Court does what is right for women. It sucks that only one woman is on there.

  2. This is so disturbing to know we have yet to see what the actual impact will be on women’s health. I just saw a clip of a worker at a San Antonio clinic who had answered a call from a desperate women who had no transportation and could not make the three hour trip or pay for accomadations for the wait time. She told the worker “what if I tell you what I have in my kitchen cabinet and you can tell me what I can do.”
    As a society, these laws are have taken away years of progress in women’s rights. I’m horrified.

  3. Joyce Collins says:

    Oh Lawdie…I’m so disgusted and saddened by all of this! I happened to be on the front lines for women’s rights! WE have to stick together As WOMEN, BLACK,WHITE,ASIAN, INDIAN…We All have to VOTE and we have to Vote Blue! Please, your vote counts! Black men and Women came out in droves to vote for President Obama…Please, let’s do it Again! Lets show those woman hating republicans that WE COUNT!!

  4. Hilda C. Brown says:

    If male legislators & politicians want to restrict the right of choice to women & their Doctors then they better be willing to enact laws making men who impregnate women with the responsibility for their financial & emotional well being of mother & child. In addition, if your state enacts such laws they also bear the responsibility for mother and child. Since neither is likely to happen then back off and let women have the rights and protections guaranteed to Americans (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness).

  5. They should go ahead and make euthanasia legal. Too many risky self-inflicted suicides that result in messy health outcomes

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