Criminalizing abortion is no less than forced childbirth. I hope that you, like me, feel a moral and political imperative to resist and reject a world in which people who get pregnant have no other options but to bear a child. The right to decide “if, when, and how” to get and be pregnant or have a child is on the line in the U.S. The outlook is grim.
The 1973 landmark U.S. law Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision established a constitutional right to abortion and made abortion legal in all 50 states and prevented states from imposing undue restrictions on abortion. Since then, anti-abortionists have litigated what is considered to bean “undue” restriction and steadily made abortion harder to access and abortion services tougher to deliver. Their ultimate goal has been for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is a possibility given the new composition of the court.
What are the implications if Roe is overturned?
Access is and always has been the issue. Soon after abortion was legalized, Congress made it illegal to use Medicaid funds for abortion, creating a significant burden for low income people to access abortion. Abortion restrictions impact everyone, and will compound the burden on marginalized communities and teens, who may not have a few hundred dollars at hand, who can’t take time off of work, who can’t drop everything to travel to another state for abortion services. If abortion is outlawed, unsafe abortions will skyrocket. Mountains of global research has shown that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion, it just pushes abortion underground. Some underground abortions are very safe (more about these below), but many folks won’t know about these options and will suffer. Where abortion is illegal, the rates of pregnancy related mortality and morbidity rise.
What is the Texas Law?
In early 2021, far right, Trump-loving politicians in Texas passed Senate Bill 8 which makes abortion illegal after 6 weeks, including for rape and incest, a time at which most people aren’t aware that they are pregnant. The law deputizes citizens and offers up to $10,000 for snitching on anyone who helps someone get an abortion. Even though SB 8 flies in the face of Roe, the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect, signaling that it’s set to bury Roe. The court is expected to overturn Roe explicitly over a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This law undercuts the viability marker in Roe, that has held that states may not interfere with abortion before fetal viability, which has remained fairly consistent at 24 weeks.
What are the implications?
Overturning Roe is not just a devastating loss of a fundamental right, it is a terrifying win for the far right whose leaders see the Texas law and this right-wing Supreme Court as a pathway to overturn the host of civil rights legislation founded on the 14th amendment justified by equal protection and due process.
The Texas law makes anyone into a bounty hunter, offering the opportunity to win $10,000 for suing anyone who helps with an abortion — that can be a doctor, family, friends, or even the rideshare driver who provides transports. The parallel to the vicious Fugitive Slave Laws can’t be ignored as precedent, where bounty hunter schemes facilitated regular people to circumvent federal laws and deny fundamental human rights to targeted populations. A number of commentators have also flagged that authoritarianism loves a snitch, and the Texas law invites neighbors, abusers, and really anyone to rain punishment, serve as the eyes of the government, and enforce a reactionary system.
Twenty-four states have anti-abortion laws proposed and twenty of these have “trigger bans,” which means that abortion bans will automatically go into effect, skipping any legislative process, the moment that Roe is overturned. States where abortion will remain legal are going to be hugely impacted, too. For example, a recent Guttmacher Institute report finds that the 46,000 patients who find their nearest clinic in California would increase almost 3,000 percent to 1.4 million. The right will redouble their campaign of harassment and terror in the remaining 26 states where abortion remains legal. That means that attacks on clinics where abortion is legal are going to increase, as will the need for effective clinic defense.
Criminalizing the means of abortions doesn’t end the need for them . The coat hanger is an emblem of illegal abortion because it symbolizes the unsafe and desperate measures that women have resorted to all over the world to end a pregnancy. From safe sex, contraception, and abortion information, there is still a heavy lift to reject the misinformation and shame around sex and bodies.
From taking to the streets to volunteering with practical support networks that help folks in Texas and other states where abortion will be a crime, there are many ways to get involved with the fight for abortion rights. Here are just a few:
Plan C: Spread information and access to Plan C, the abortion pill that can be used for self-managed abortion and help get them into hands that need them. The pills, which are taken a few days apart and cause a miscarriage, require a doctor’s prescription in the US. They are most effective during the first trimester. There are telemedicine sites that facilitate easy access to the pills and can mail the pills to home addresses. AidAccess (aidaccess.org) is a bilingual (English, Spanish) website for telemedicine in the US. The website PlanCPills.com provides information and resources about the pills.
Many people are bucking the prescription framework and accessing the pills directly for self-managed abortions by purchasing the pills at bodegas in Mexico where the medication called “Cytotec” is sold. Cytotec was developed and sold as an anti-ulcer drug, and is used widely and safely across Latin America for first trimester abortions.
Work within affinity groups and develop ways to spread accurate information or collect and distribute the pills to folks or community organizations that will reach those most in need. For example, groups could slap up Plan C stickers with QR codes that link to the website Plan C and abortion pill access in all sorts of places where young women and other folks who could get pregnant might be.
Practical Support: Volunteer with abortion funds and access organizations in the states nearest you where abortion will be soon be criminalized. Want to help people get to a clinic with a ride? CASN, the Clinic Access Support Network (clinicaccess.org), trains volunteers to provide direct support and rides to clinics, and is a part of the Network of Abortion Funds that helps to provide a host of support to anyone who needs to access an abortion. Volunteer for the Texas based Frontera Fund (fronterafundrgv.org) or, in California, AccessRJ (accessrj.org) connects callers with full-scope sexual and reproductive health services through their info line and direct support network.
Fight the Right: Wherever we are, we have to fight like our lives and future depend on it, because they do. That means confronting far right forces whether they are showing their racist misogynist faces as Proud Boys or as “pro-lifers”. Mass actions, direct actions, public visibility and art that articulates what we are fighting for, and the imperative to oppose the right-wing agenda, are critical to keep the pressure on and invigorate resistance. January 23rd, 2022 is the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In the Bay Area, thousands of anti-abortion forces will march in the streets of San Francisco, spreading lies about abortion and celebrating oppressive restrictions on abortion rights. Let’s oppose them at every opportunity and fight for the world we want to live in.