This week was pivotal for reproductive rights, health, and justice.
Monday, November 1st, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas. As the arguments concluded, this is a harrowing time not just for Texans, but for everyone in our country whose right it is to maintain bodily autonomy, to parent or not parent, all in safe and sustainable communities.
The Texas ban on abortion is a blatantly unconstitutional attack on the abortion rights of Texans. The ban bars folx from accessing an abortion at approximately six (6) weeks in pregnancy, before many even know they’re pregnant; and has armed regular citizens to act as vigilantees for cash bounties of at least $10,000 (plus legal fees and costs) to encourage such litigation, turning neighbors into watchdogs. Even though we may not know what the Supreme Court Justices decide for some time, we can continue to be bold about our support for abortion rights and access, while knowing what’s at stake. Let’s review the two cases discussed by SCOTUS this week.
Opening Remark: Texas Sucks
Even prior to the events leading up to SB 8, the landscape in Texas has heavily politicized reproductive healthcare, especially abortion care. Unsurprisingly, this Red state has one of the highest teen birth rates, seemingly nonexistant sex ed curriculum, and over 200 fake clinics across the state.
So when SB 8 was presented in Texas’ Legislative Session, activists were united in their fight to stop the ban. Unfortunately, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on September first. Organizations, President Biden’s Department of Justice, and 23 other Attorney Generals from around the country, including New Mexico’s AG Hector Balderas, have stood with U.S. AG Garland in their opposition to SB 8.
A federal district court granted the DOJ’s request to preliminarily block the abortion ban, but relief only lasted two days as the U.S Fifth Circut Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect again less than 48 hours later.
SCOTUS Hearings Begin
The first of the two cases heard earlier this week, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, is a case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, the Lawyering Project, the ACLU of Texas, and ACLU. It is a case challenging the 6-week abortion ban brought by providers Basically: Is the ban allowed when the law is enforced by individuals rather than the state?
As you may recall, in August these organizations asked the Supreme Court to block the ban before it took effect on September 1, but the Court refused, citing “complex and novel” procedural questions about whether it has the authority to do so. Now, as two months have passed since SB 8 has been in effect, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, those working to make ends meet, undocumented immigrants, and young people continue to face the most severe barriers to accessing care out of state and are likely to face disproportionate harm from the law.
The second case, United States v. Texas, also challenges SB 8. The Department of Justice suit against Texas six-week abortion ban seeks to block law from being enforced and presents the issue of whether the U.S. government has authority to bring this case forward. Basically: The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the State of Texas. The court is considering only the procedural issue of whether either or both of those cases can proceed through the courts. Confusing? We know.
While these arguments will continue for the next few weeks or months, SCOTUS has also agreed to hear another case on December 1st.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. Similar to the Texas abortion ban, which clearly violates Roe v. Wade, Mississippi has directly asked SCOTUS to overturn Roe. Basically: The lawyers representing the State of Mississippi in Dobbs are specifically asking the court to overrule Roe v. Wade. This case is a direct challenge to Roe’s core holding: that every person has the right to decide whether to continue their pregnancy prior to viability.
As the majority of people obtaining abortion care in the state are Black, Mississippi is ranked last in the U.S. for the health of pregnant people and children. Black infants and mothers in Mississippi suffer from higher rates of infant and maternal mortality than their white counterparts. With only one remaining clinic in Mississippi — Jackson’s Women’s Health, it is especially important for Mississippians to have access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion care.
New Mexico Stands with Texas
This past legislative session, New Mexico monumentally repealed an abortion ban from the 1960s and essentially solidified Roe in our state. We pride ourselves on welcoming every person without harm or stigma in providing essential health care that includes abortion.
While our providers and clinics have maintained the heavy flow of Texas patients, New Mexicans have committed to abortion access through donating to Texas abortion funds and New Mexico abortion funds like Mariposa Fund, Indigenous Women Rising and New Mexico Religious Coalition for Choice. ProgressNow New Mexico has also partnered up with Noise for Now in their creation of the “Don’t Snitch On My Snatch” tee with 100% of the proceeds going to abortion funds in both states! We do it because New Mexicans respect access to essential health care, including abortion care, even as Texas politicians and other copycats continue to place more extreme laws. New Mexico will remain a place of safety for people of all genders who seek care.
It’s devastating that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed this blatantly unconstitutional law to remain in place for more than 50 days. With over a year since Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and two Trump-picked Justices on the bench, the balance of the Supreme Court is out of order.
Every day SB 8 is in effect, it is harming the people of Texas and denying them their constitutionally protected right to abortion care. These cases are about much more than abortion; everyone who cares about their constitutional rights should be concerned- this kind of scheme could easily be used to ban free speech, marriage equality, or any other civil right.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the fundamental importance of rights for Americans—and that generations have relied on this right to shape their lives and futures. When it comes to bodily autonomy, to parent or not to parent, all in safe and sustainable communities, the court must affirm our constitutional right to abortion.