Sweeping Challenge to Texas Abortion Laws Aims to Dismantle Web of Unconstitutional Restrictions

 Coalition of Texas Healthcare Providers and Community Advocates Challenge Legal Regime that Makes Abortion Inaccessible for Many Texans


Media Contact:

Alexa Garcia-Ditta, alexa@prochoicetexas.org and Sharmeen Aly, sharmeen@prochoicetexas.org 

 06.14.18 (PRESS RELEASE) – Today, Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Afiya Center, Fund Texas Choice, Lilith Fund, Texas Equal Access Fund, West Fund, and Dr. Bhavik Kumar filed a lawsuit in federal court in Austin, Texas, challenging a host of long-standing and burdensome Texas laws that restrict access to abortion care.

 People seeking abortion care in Texas face an array of medically unnecessary requirements that are difficult, time-consuming, and costly to navigate—sometimes prohibitively so.  These laws have been built up over time to chip away at the abortion right first recognized in Roe v. Wade more than four decades ago and reaffirmed just recently in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.  In both of those landmark cases, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional Texas laws that restricted access to abortion care, recognizing that the right to have an abortion is critical to the liberty, dignity, and equal status of anyone with the capacity to become pregnant.  The healthcare providers and grassroots organizations bringing today’s challenge ask the court to follow that precedent. 

 The lawsuit challenges abortion restrictions that fall within five categories of unconstitutional laws currently in force in Texas, including:


  • Targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws, which single out abortion providers for regulatory requirements that are different and more burdensome than those governing other healthcare providers;

  • Laws that deny abortion patients the benefits of scientific progress, including those that limit advancements in the use of medication abortion and those that prohibit the use of telemedicine in abortion care;

  • Restrictions that shame and punish those seeking abortion, forcing patients to delay care and forcing doctors to lie to patients and to provide state-mandated information about abortion that is biased, misleading, or medically inaccurate;

  • Forced parental involvement laws that require minors to obtain approval from a parent or judge and navigate a labyrinth of procedural requirements before having an abortion, including in cases where the minor’s parents are estranged, deceased, negligent, or abusive; and

  • Laws that threaten abortion providers with arrest or jail for providing care subject abortion providers to special criminal liability.

The lawsuit also challenges the University of Texas System’s refusal to grant students credit for completing field placements or internships with organizations that facilitate abortion access.

In each of the categories of challenged restrictions, Texas has made the laws more burdensome over time, pushing abortion access further and further out of reach, particularly for communities already facing barriers to health care.

 The challenged laws force everyone seeking abortion care in Texas to navigate unnecessary obstacles, but poor people, people of color, immigrants, and others who are marginalized face the harshest impacts.  These unjust laws therefore deepen societal inequalities, contributing to a system in which people with wealth and privilege can exercise basic rights but others cannot. 

 “For years, Texas politicians have done everything in their power to push abortion out of reach for Texans. Today, we join communities and advocates across the state to send the message that we have had enough,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “We went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2016 to defeat harmful abortion restrictions and we are not done fighting so that every Texan can get the health care they need and deserve. All Texans, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn, should be able to make the health care decisions that are best for them and get the care they need with dignity.”

“The Afiya Center is a woman-centered organization that addresses the unique needs of Black women through health promotion, advocacy, and public health education.  We fight tenaciously using a reproductive justice framework for the right to full access to quality healthcare which includes abortions for the women we serve,” said Marsha Jones, Executive Director of the Afiya Center. “We have joined our colleagues in solidarity as a revolutionary act today because we need you to Trust Black Women.  Black women’s reproductive choices have historically been under attack and we stand here today on our historical experiences for the right to choose.   We have always resisted, and we will continue to resist these antiquated laws that the state of Texas is attempting to move forward to control our reproductive destinies.” 

 “The egregious laws that unnecessarily extend the length of abortion appointments, burden abortion providers, or deny Texans the best medical information and care make accessing safe abortion nearly impossible for Texans, actively endangering their well-being and inhibiting their autonomy,” said Natalie St. Clair, Operations Manager at Fund Texas Choice. “Fund Texas Choice mitigates this harm by providing travel, lodging, and logistical support to over 300 individuals each year who are most affected by these barriers—low-income populations of color, immigrants, and young people.  But we want a better Texas.  So, we are proud to join in this fight with our community partners in hopes that one day equitable abortion access is a reality.”

 “These anti-abortion laws specifically target the communities the Lilith Fund serves in Texas—the majority of whom are low-income communities of color—further stripping them of autonomy and economic security by placing unnecessary and dangerous obstacles to abortion and other health care in their path,” said Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund. “We're honored to join our partners in this fight to promote compassion, respect, and dignity for our callers and all people seeking abortion care in Texas.”

 “I have heard from TEA Fund callers seeking abortion who were emotionally scarred by the state-mandated lies that abortion providers are legally required to tell.  I have spoken to people in Amarillo who had to drive a woman four hours one way to her abortion appointment in Albuquerque because TRAP laws shuttered all Panhandle providers,” said Nan Little Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the Texas Equal Access Fund.  “The group of laws being challenged may seem on the surface to be a hodgepodge of random requirements, but together they weave a huge barrier to abortion access for thousands of people in Texas, especially low-income people, people of color, and people in our vast rural areas. TEA Fund is proud to be joining other Texas abortion funds and abortion providers to fight back against reproductive oppression."

“Our state government has consistently ignored the rights, needs, and experiences of people on the border. Texas has displayed a pattern of hurting our health and families, especially when it decreases funding for colonias, sanctions the discrimination of LGBTQ parents, and restricts access to safe and legal abortion. This happens while at the same time, targeting border and immigrant communities, and militarizing our homes. These racist laws prevent our communities from obtaining full bodily autonomy, resources and the power needed to thrive,” said Lili Gomez, Director of Outreach for the West Fund. “Since 2015, we have pledged over $100,000 towards abortions, and served over 700 people in our community. West Fund fulfills a gap that has been exponentially growing since our founding due to harmful policies enacted by the Texas Legislature which only stigmatize and delay health care.
We’re proud to stand up for our callers, stand in community with statewide advocates, and take this fight to the courts to defend the freedom of all people in Texas, so they may access the quality, medical care they need.”

 The Plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyering Project and the Law Offices of Patrick J. O’Connell PLLC.  

 

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The Lawyering Project is a legal advocacy organization focused on improving access to reproductive healthcare in the United States through litigation that advances an intersectional framework. Laws that undermine reproductive rights and justice deprive people of moral agency, rob us of control over our bodies, and compound other forms of oppression like racism, sexism, and poverty. Our mission is to eliminate these laws and the harmful impacts they have on people’s lives.

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