On the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Texans’ access to safe, legal and timely abortion is at a low point. Restricted access means only one thing: Texans’ health and safety are at risk.
Roe v. Wade, a case out of Texas, legalized abortion across the United States. At the time the Supreme Court decided Roe, abortion was banned in almost every state with few exceptions. Roe made these bans unconstitutional, resulting in increased access to safe, legal abortion nationwide.
As a young woman working in the reproductive rights movement, I am often told that I do not know what it was like before Roe, when abortion was illegal. While it is true that I—as a woman who grew up in a middle-class family in an urban area—have never had to worry about access to abortion, many Texans are now living in pre-Roe conditions where safe, legal abortion is not an option.
In the decades since Roe, the Texas Legislature has fought to restrict abortion so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. As you read this, the future of abortion access in Texas hinges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision on whether or not to uphold the ambulatory surgical center provision of HB 2, the anti-abortion bill passed during 2013’s second special session. This provision does nothing to benefit patients, but forces abortion clinics to meet costly building requirements like having locker rooms, showers and extra-wide hallways. If HB 2 is upheld, there will be less than 10 abortion clinics in Texas, in only five major cities and about 750,000 women of reproductive age will live more than 200 miles from a Texas abortion clinic, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project.
It is unconscionable that hundreds of thousands of Texans would have to travel over 200 miles to access vital reproductive health care.
Anti-abortion lawmakers and activists have recently started claiming that restrictions make the procedure safer. With less than a one percent major complication rate, abortion is already one of the safest medical procedures—according to the Guttmacher Institute—and does not need to be further regulated. In fact, abortion clinic regulations compromise Texans’ health and safety by making a legal health care procedure harder to get.
After years of attacks on abortion access by anti-abortion legislators and former Gov. Rick Perry, accessing abortion takes time and resources many people do not have. There is not only the cost of the procedure, but also the cost of travelling to the clinic multiple times. State law mandates a 24-hour wait between the required sonogram and the abortion, which for the patient means additional time off work, wages lost and arranging childcare and transportation. As a result, many Texans are pushed further along in their pregnancies before they can access a clinic.
By piling unnecessary restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion lawmakers have been able to limit access to the procedure without overturning Roe.
On the 42nd anniversary of Roe, we should acknowledge the importance of the decision, but also recognize that many Texans still lack access to abortion. Honor Roe by fighting back against anti-abortion legislation and advocating for proactive policies. The 84th Legislative Session is already underway; be prepared to come to the Texas Capitol and speak out against anti-abortion bills and in support of legislation that expands Texans’ access to reproductive health care so that on the 43rd anniversary of Roe we have more to celebrate.