By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend
Citizens in all 50 states are talking about Texas’ new abortion law. Signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, it took effect this month. The Supreme Court refused to take any action against the progress of this law. The new law prohibits abortion after six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant. Abortion rights advocates have called the law the most extreme in the country. President Joe Biden called the law “extreme” and said it “blatantly violates” the constitutional right to abortion, adding that his administration will do all that it can to protect and defend that right. He promised an (all government) approach to abortion rights. The law refused to make an exception for rape, incest, or the life or health of the mother.
The law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion, including those who give women a ride to a clinic, advice or counseling, or any financial assistance in obtaining an abortion. This could include Uber drivers, Greyhound bus drivers, public transit drivers, or anyone (including friends or relatives) who gives a woman a ride to a clinic. Private citizens who bring these suits don’t need to show any connection to those they are suing or that they have been damaged. If they prevail, the law entitles them to a minimum of $10,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees. There are no consequences whatsoever if they lose, and they don’t have to pay legal fees or damages of any kind. The opportunity for grievance settling and other mischief and payback abound. Law enforcement is not involved in any of this; thus, it makes bounty hunters out of private citizens.
Abortion providers say this prohibits most of the abortions in Texas. Socioeconomic status is also an issue in the law, as some don’t have the money to travel out of state and all that that means. Biden acknowledged this fact. “The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes,” Biden said in a statement. “And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual.”
Clinics in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico are reporting that a large portion of their clientele in the last week has been from Texas. Social Democrats USA opposes the Texas abortion legislation. Social democrats believe in gender equality and reproductive freedom, and both are at stake in this law. In a true democratic republic, everyone participates in the political process and economy – including women! We support the efforts of the Biden administration to roll back the law, especially the lawsuits launched by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice. We also support the efforts of any in the Texas legislative branch to overturn the law. We support efforts in the Congress of federalize Roe vs. Wade. Our organization also supports efforts to keep similar laws from passing in other states.
Politicians in Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Ohio, South Dakota, Kansas, and Florida have already committed to at least working to implement a version of the Texas abortion ban in their states. Just two days ago, Missouri legislators said they might adopt a similar law. When these politicians are done with passing these terrible laws, abortion will be illegal in almost half of the U.S.
The abortion issue has been a hot button issue in our country for decades. However, 75% of the country is pro-choice, mostly due to younger generation. However, lawmakers at the state level are still campaigning to criminalize abortion and control women’s bodies. Let’s score some victories and put the issue to rest by making abortion rights the law all over the land!
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.