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Here’s What’s Happening With Texas’ War on Abortion

Abortion rights activists rally in front of the US Supreme Court

Yesterday, we briefly touched on what’s been going on with Texas’ attempts to ban abortion but the whole situation is such a chaotic mess, we really need to do a deeper dive to sort it all out. So here’s where we’re at.

Texas is one of a few states where politicians are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion. Texas’ governor Greg Abbott issued a directive to suspend all non-essential medical procedures in order to preserve necessary medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for use fighting COVID-19. Abortion (except in case of medical emergency) was included in that directive, even though that makes no sense for reasons we’ll get to later.

Then on Monday, a federal judge overturned that ban, writing with a bit of snark that he would “not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent ‘except-in-a-national-emergency clause’” to Roe v. Wade.

Things looked good for a few hours until Tuesday morning, when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed for an immediate appellate review in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. That court sided with Paxton and Abbott and said yes, elective abortions can be banned during the pandemic.

“How heartless do you have to be to, in a time of crisis, take extraordinary measures to take away people’s health care?” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “Abortion is essential health care, and it is urgent and time-sensitive. While people everywhere are trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians like Gov. Abbott continue this perverse obsession with banning abortion. Those who are caring for their families, forced to work essential jobs, and doing what they can to stay healthy need access to health care right now. Instead, these politicians are forcing patients to travel hundreds of miles putting themselves and their families at risk.”

Portraying abortion as a threat to our public health, saying it will take away necessary resources from those who need it most, is a straight-up lie, and a sneaky one because it relies on–and aggravates!–a lack of understanding of what abortion really is.

The Boom! Lawyered podcast has an excellent (as always) episode up right now, breaking down exactly why this argument is such BS. To start, even medication abortion (ie the “abortion pill”) is now banned in Texas. If we’re talking about preserving PPE for doctors fighting COVID-19, administering oral medication doesn’t eat into those resources in the slightest.

But guess what, neither does in-clinic abortion (often called “surgical abortion” but it’s not actually a surgical procedure). During that sort of medical procedure, doctors and other medical personnel don’t use N-95 masks or ventilators or any of the other equipment there’s any current (or risk of) shortage of.

So no, abortion is not a drain on hospital resources. But forcing pregnant people to remain pregnant would be, since they would then be forced to seek an increased amount of prenatal care. And with the skyrocketing unemployment numbers we’re seeing now, paying for that care, as well as childcare, transportation, and any other services that might be needed can also be an incredible burden.

While we’re talking about terrible, disingenuous excuses for banning abortion, it’s hard to get much more infuriating than Governor Abbott and other anti-abortion advocates’ argument that so many pregnant people are travelling long distances and making multiple visits to medical providers that they’re being irresponsible and risking spreading the virus across the state. But as Imani Gandi says on the podcast, “WHOSE F***ING FAULT IS THAT?”

“Texas has these onerous regulations that require multiple unnecessary trips to a provider for counselling and for unnecessary forced ultrasounds and they have implemented so many absurd regulations that clinics have been forced to close. They’ve been forced to close as a result of these regulations, which in turn forces patients to travel to other parts of the state and even sometimes out of state.

“This is ridiculous,” says co-host Jessica Mason Pieklo. “You can’t enact burdensome regulations that make it harder for people to access care because they have to travel hundreds of miles and then turn around and blame pregnant people for potentially spreading the virus across the state because they are forced to travel hundreds of miles.” But of course they can and they are.

As Gandi points out, “advocates for Texas are blaming pregnant people for spreading the virus but Governor Abbott has yet to issue a shelter-in-place order.” So it’s not pregnant people spreading the virus, it’s everyone. Including, by the way, abortion protestors, who are still out in full force in Texas right now with no condemnation from the governor.

This ban on abortion has nothing to do the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It will do absolutely nothing to help those with the virus or those fighting it. Anti-abortion advocates are, plain and simple, using one of the worst health crises we’ve ever seen as a sneaky excuse to push through a totally unrelated agenda. And this is the same group of people that’s always yelling “don’t politicize tragedy!” Everyone, even those who don’t support reproductive rights, should be outraged by this level of craven political scheming.

(image: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.