Thursday marks 100 days of nearly no abortions being allowed in Texas. That’s 100 days of Texans aiding abortions to be on alert for civil litigation. A full 100 days of Senate Bill 8, completely upending how abortion care is provided in the Lone Star State.
S.B. 8 is a cruel and draconian Texas state law that went into effect on Sept. 1, outlawing abortions after 6 weeks and empowering Americans anywhere to take anyone aiding in the abortion process to court. It’s led to a mass exodus of patients from Texas. Planned Parenthood (which doesn’t even provide a majority of abortions in the country) shared exclusively with Jezebel that its health centers surrounding Texas recorded a 1,082 percent increase in patients with Texas zip codes in the first month of the law. Researchers have even found Texas patients traveled as far as the District of Columbia and California (and 10 other states) for an abortion.
For S, a nonbinary Texan who asked to remain anonymous because of their family’s beliefs, S.B. 8 made the process of seeking an abortion even harder. They found out about their pregnancy after the 6-week cut off, and ended up at a crisis pregnancy center that provided free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. When speaking with Jezebel, they described intense physical pain as well as gender dysphoria brought on by the pregnancy.
“I had to drive to the next closest clinic for the initial consult and procedure, which is a bit over 4 hours each way,” they told me, adding that they were “lucky” to only wait a week between the initial consult and the procedure. “The decision to get an abortion was incredibly easy, even without knowing the process. Pretty much everyone at the clinic made sure I knew the process, so it made it a lot less scary.”
They managed to make it within the first trimester, even with the pushiness of the crisis pregnancy center. “It was a real pain, and I wish I called the real clinic sooner,” they said. “I managed to get my abortion, [and] it was a night and day difference between [the crisis pregnancy center] and the actual women’s clinic [in Louisiana]. They knew exactly why I was there and just laid everything I would need to do.”
The Supreme Court decided to hear emergency arguments on the law back in October, a month after it going on the books. The justices were intrigued by the “novel” enforcement mechanism of S.B. 8. Normally, an abortion clinic or patient would directly sue the most relevant public official to challenge a state law; in Roe v. Wade, this was Jane Roe suing Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, the man who would be responsible for charging her with having an illegal abortion in the 1970s. But S.B. 8's way around this is by allowing private citizens to sue anyone who they believe abetted an abortion. Already, multiple lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Alan Braid, who wrote a powerful op-ed about defying the ban for his patients. The Supreme Court justices pretended this legal strategy was a brave and interesting way of getting around the legal guarantees of Roe, which found abortions couldn’t be banned before viability.
Sadly, SCOTUS has been mum since hearing those emergency petitions from abortion clinics and the Department of Justice. The lack of clarity from those nine people — who have not provided answers to questions like ‘are they going to outlaw abortion?’ ‘Are they going to agree people’s right to privacy?’ — has left patients scrambling and clinics bursting at the seams.
Pro-abortion rights advocacy group Avow Executive Director Aimee Arrambide told Jezebel in a statement that S.B. 8 was a “public health emergency,” which is clearly exemplified by S’s struggle to get care. “SB 8 has [wrought] havoc on the abortion care infrastructure in Texas. It has forced Texans to either delay care, go across state lines for care, and for many, put off that care all together. This is a public health emergency,” Arrambide said.
The silence of the Supreme Court has only allowed anti-abortion politicians to run wild. At least four states have introduced similar vigilante-style legislation into state legislatures. The Arkansas bill was introduced this week and seeks to ban abortion at the moment of fertilization. What will the next 100 days bring?