Since Texas enacted SB8, a landmark, near-total abortion ban enforced via citizen surveillance and the threat of financially ruinous lawsuits to providers, nearly a dozen states have introduced copycat bills. This week, which marks the six-month anniversary of Texas’ ban taking effect, Idaho and Oklahoma are on the brink of becoming the first states to successfully pass their own iterations of SB8. These bans could take effect as early as April if signed into law.
Earlier this month, state Senate committees in Idaho and Oklahoma advanced their Texas-style bans, which arbitrarily ban abortion care at about six weeks before many people can realize they’re pregnant. Idaho’s full Senate is slated to vote on the bill, SB1309, this week, and while it’s not yet clear when Oklahoma’s full Senate will vote on their abortion ban, SB1503, advocates are bracing for the vote to take place soon. Idaho’s bill notably allows plaintiffs to sue only immediate family members who help someone have an abortion and the abortion provider for up to $20,000. Meanwhile, Oklahoma and Texas’ bills allow anyone who helps someone have an abortion—from their Uber driver to an abortion fund that helped them afford the procedure—to be sued for up to $10,000.
The governors of both Idaho and Oklahoma have already expressed support for these bans, and Oklahoma’s legislature is also considering a bill that would ban abortion at just 30 days, effectively robbing the state of abortion access. A spokesperson for Trust Women, an abortion provider with a clinic in Tulsa, told 19th News that they hadn’t anticipated the bill “would move this quickly.” And if SB1309 takes effect in Idaho, patients would have to travel an estimated average of 250 miles to their nearest abortion provider in either Washington state, Oregon, Wyoming, or Montana for care.
As Idaho and Oklahoma race to pass their versions of Texas’ ban, Texans have effectively been living in a post-Roe world since September, and the consequences have been devastating. If—or rather, when—Oklahoma successfully enacts its SB8 style ban, pregnant people in both Oklahoma and Texas will shoulder the severe impacts of this. As a state that borders Texas, Oklahoma saw a 2,500% increase in Texans seeking abortion care at its Planned Parenthood Centers between the months of September through December in 2020 and 2021.
Advocates, experts, and people who have had abortions have long pointed out that banning abortion doesn’t end the health service—it only creates new barriers and risks to get care, including being forced to travel great distances often across state lines. Still, not everyone is even able to travel to get abortion care. In Texas, many pregnant minors, who are unable to miss school to travel out-of-state to get an abortion, and undocumented people who risk deportation when they travel due to immigration checkpoints across the state, have been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.
In tandem with the travel itself, there’s also the massive cost to do so, plus the costs of lodging, child care, missed work, and the abortion itself. Abortion funds try to help as many people as they can, but they can only do so much. And in some cases, being forced to navigate massive cost, geographic, and legal barriers can delay pregnant Texans’ ability to get an abortion to the extent that they aren’t even able to get care in a neighboring state—Oklahoma, for example, bans abortion at 20 weeks with few exceptions. This is the harrowing future that could soon await abortion providers and pregnant people in Idaho and Oklahoma within a few short weeks if their abortion bans are signed into law.
2022 marks a particularly precarious year for abortion rights, with Roe itself on the brink of being gutted or reversed altogether as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson, a crucial case on a 15-week ban in Mississippi. Already, the 6-3 anti-abortion supermajority court made clear of its disdain for pregnant people’s human rights by repeatedly declining to rule on Texas’ SB8.
The Texas-style abortion ban and the culture of surveillance it creates by deputizing citizens to spy on each other is particularly dangerous at a time of increasing criminalization of pregnancy outcomes and abortion. Just earlier this month, Oklahoma lawmakers proposed creating a state database for pregnant people. As abortion bans and restrictions surge across the US, criminal charges for miscarriages, stillbirths, and self-managed abortions via medication—which can’t be distinguished from a miscarriage—have tripled in recent years, particularly targeting pregnant people of color. The impending fall of Roe and rise of abortion bans like SB8 have the potential to reduce all pregnant people’s bodies to crime scenes.
As Texans prepare to mark the six month anniversary of their fundamental human rights being stripped away, and Idaho and Oklahoma appear to be on the brink of following them, what we’re seeing today might just be the beginning.