Two days after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered an injunction blocking a Texas law that severely restricts a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request by the Texas attorney general to suspend Pitman’s ruling Oct. 8.
This reinstates the bill that instructs doctors not to perform abortion if they find a fetal “heartbeat.” This normally occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy — when many women don’t even know if they’re pregnant and an embryo does not have anything resembling a human heart.
The appeals court panel gave the U.S. Justice Department, which filed the initial challenge to the law, until Oct. 12 to respond.
During the two-day reprieve, six of the 21 family planning clinics in Texas scrambled to reschedule some of the patients they had been turning away after passage of the act, reported the Center for Reproductive Rights. The seven Planned Parenthood clinics in the state did not reschedule any of their procedures.
Texas officials are now asking the appeals court for a permanent injunction that would allow the law to stand during further court hearings.
To enforce the law, the state allows any person to go after doctors, nurses, clinic volunteers and counselors, family members or anyone who helped a woman obtain an abortion or raised funds to cover the procedure. Those found guilty could face a fine of at least $10,000, plus court costs. The law does not make an exception in cases of rape, incest or sexual abuse — only if a woman’s health is in danger.
Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and other states are considering introducing similar bills.
“The right to choose whether and when to bear children, including how many, has to be a private, personal matter for all women,” Sara Lobman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Manhattan Borough president, told the Militant. “This is fundamental for women being able to control and plan their own lives.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, director of Whole Woman’s Health in Texas, estimates that 80% of its patients seen since the law was enacted are now turned away after their ultrasound check. Over 56,000 abortions were performed in Texas in 2019.
Women in Texas are forced to turn to out-of-state clinics, especially in Oklahoma and Louisiana. Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, is booked more than three weeks out and has added evening hours. “Because of the delay, they are going to be further along” in their pregnancy, said Kathaleen Pittman, an administrator for that clinic. The Tulsa Women’s Clinic in Oklahoma has tripled its daily appointments. Many poorer working-class women are being prevented from having an abortion.
The nonstop propaganda campaign by opponents of women’s rights and erosion of the right to choose has had an impact on the consciousness of working people. Millions are convinced that life begins at conception or soon after, even if they do not support restricting all abortions.
“Only a mass movement can educate and mobilize the power needed to defend a woman’s right to unrestricted family planning services. This is what it took to overthrow Jim Crow segregation,” SWP candidate Lobman said. “Fighting for that right is essential for winning women’s equality, uniting the working class and building our unions.”
Today there is not an abortion clinic in 90% of U.S. counties. A decade ago Texas had 40 family planning clinics providing abortion, twice as many as today.
On Oct. 2 tens of thousands of working people joined in over 660 demonstrations in cities and small towns across the country, and some overseas, to speak out in favor of women’s right to choose abortion and against the Texas law.