Over 1,000 demonstrators marched from the Texas state Capitol in Austin to the Governor’s Mansion May 29 to protest the recently passed “Texas Heartbeat Act” that would ban most abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy.
The “heartbeat” bill was signed into law by Gov. Gregory Abbott 10 days earlier. It prohibits abortions after cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo. At that stage many women might not even know they’re pregnant. The only exceptions are for life-threatening medical emergencies.
The Texas law allows any individual to sue doctors, nurses, clinic volunteers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion. This includes getting monetary damages against family members, abortion counselors and anyone who helps the woman raise the funds to cover the procedure. Abortion-rights advocates plan a court challenge.
Over 56,000 abortions were performed in Texas in 2019, most in the first trimester. Amy Hagstrom Miller, head of Whole Women’s Health that runs four clinics in the state, said that about 90% of women who go to the clinics are more than six weeks into their pregnancy.
The Texas legislature has passed measures restricting women’s right to choose abortion in recent years, including mandatory “counseling” to discourage women from getting the procedure, forced waiting periods, parental consent for minors, and requiring patients to have an ultrasound of the fetus and their doctors to show it to them. With few clinics in Texas outside the major cities, many women have to travel hundreds of miles to see a provider.
Nationally, 58% of women and men favor a woman’s right to abortion.
“We are in this together and we’re going to fight this,” pro-choice demonstrator Renee Kreisner said at the rally. We’re here “to help keep women safe, and make sure abortion is an option.”
In Lubbock, a “sanctuary for the unborn” ordinance outlawing abortions in the city took effect June 1. It empowers family members to sue anyone for damages who helps others with an abortion.
Ken Lambrecht, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, told the Texas Tribune that its Lubbock clinic remains open for reproductive health services and that the ban “violates patients’ constitutional rights.
“We will continue to stand up for [them] with all of our resources,” he said.
On May 17 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review this fall whether state laws that ban previability abortions are unconstitutional. The test case is from Mississippi where the Jackson Women’s Health Organization challenged the “Gestational Age Act” passed in 2018, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
“The Socialist Workers Party supports a woman’s right to choose whether and when to have a child, free from state interference,” Alyson Kennedy, SWP Texas campaign chair, told the Militant. “We call for working people to mobilize to defend clinics that offer women family planning, including the right to safe and secure abortions.
“Defending this right is fundamental to a woman’s control of her own life and to winning full social, economic and political equality,” Kennedy said. “This right is key to uniting the working class as broader class battles are on the horizon. Millions more women are unemployed today, forced to choose between responsibility for child care under government lockdowns or going to work.
“We need to build a powerful working-class movement that breaks from the capitalist rulers’ parties and forms our own party, a labor party, to fight for women’s rights and for all those exploited and oppressed by capital.”
Jeff Pike in Austin, Texas, contributed to this article.