Sep 5, 2021
A new Texas law authorizes “any citizen” to take “legal action” against anyone who “aids or abets” the carrying out of an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
On the face of it, the law is an open violation of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling which supposedly said women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies without state interference.
But the Supreme Court didn’t declare the new Texas law unconstitutional. Nor did it put the law on hold until the law makes its way through the various layers of the judicial system, state and federal. The Court just let it stand for now.
In 2013, Texas passed two laws that the Supreme Court let stand for three years until it finally ruled them unconstitutional. During those three years, half the women’s clinics in Texas were forced to close—and almost all remained closed after the Court finally threw out the laws.
This new law, left in place even for a few years, will shut down the remaining clinics through which women gain medical care for reproductive issues—birth control as well as abortion, testing for cancers and sexually transmitted diseases.
In this supposedly “democratic” country, it doesn’t matter that almost three quarters of the population say abortion should remain legal and available. It doesn’t matter that court rulings supposedly codified this right. Access to abortion has been restricted, and restricted again, ever since the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
Laws have been passed by the states and the federal Congress chipping away at it—over 700 in the past ten years alone.
Roe v. Wade may remain in place, but most women have no direct access to abortion or other reproductive services. There are no medical facilities or doctors who perform abortions in 90% of all U.S. counties. Six states have only one in the entire state; 27 major cities are without a women’s medical facility. In rural areas, there are none.
Backing up the legal restrictions, there has been a terrorist campaign carried out by religious zealots and other right wing fanatics. In the 40 years from 1977 to 2017, there were over 7,000 recorded acts of violence, most against doctors, nurses, and other personnel in women’s clinics. The record of terrorism included 42 bombings, 185 arson attacks, hundreds of assaults. Between 1993 and 2016, 37 attempts were made to kill doctors or nurses or other employees of a clinic. Eleven people died.
Women who walked into the clinics were violently harassed in a campaign of intimidation.
The Supreme Court’s inaction on this latest Texas law is an encouragement to the same right wing zealots. It reinforces a call for vigilantism.
There will be even less access to abortion—and this will be true even if the Supreme Court eventually overturns the law.
Beyond the direct impact on abortion rights, this law adds to the official encouragement of a dangerous right wing in this country.
Women have already come under attack. Black people have been attacked; gay, lesbian, transgender people, attacked; immigrants, attacked; homeless people, attacked. Unions, women’s organizations, black churches, homeless organizations were all attacked.
To look to the courts for a defense against this right wing is to fall victim to an illusion. To hope for Democrats or “reasonable” Republicans to change the course is to court disaster. This whole system, which the courts and the two parties represent, stands behind the attacks.
Ordinary people, working people, no matter for which reason we are attacked, will defend ourselves in the only way that has ever shown the least bit of promise, that is, by organizing ourselves. But it’s not enough just to fight. If we understand that behind this right wing is the whole system that set it in motion, then we have to prepare to take on the system itself.