Texas abortion law restricts rights

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It has been a riveting week with a devastating end for Texan pro-choice advocates against one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills currently in America, HB 12. The bill, which is set to close at least one-third of Texas’s abortion clinics immediately, has had an intensely controversial history over the past several months.

In June, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Texas) successfully filibustered the bill and the fraudulent suppression tactics of the Republican state legislature, but Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) — a notorious reproductive rights opponent — called a special session of the state Senate to push the bill through.

This Monday, District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the most destructive provision of the law, which requires Texas abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, supposedly to better assure the safety of abortion procedures. In a victory for Planned Parenthood, Yeakel ruled that such a provision has no rational basis or medical purpose, and that the provision was unconstitutional because it placed an unnecessary restriction on women seeking an abortion.

However, the court decision was overturned on Thursday by the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court countered that the provision requiring admitting privileges was constitutionally valid and that “the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate” a bill that otherwise serves a legitimate purpose.

The hollowness in the appeals court’s excuse to validate an arguably unconstitutional and surely unjust bill should be self-evident. The legitimate purpose this bill supposedly serves is hazy, and Perry, speaking during Thursday’s ruling, seems confident that its true purpose is to “protect a culture of life” in Texas.

Additionally, the claim that the law protects Texas women’s health and safety is ignorant to the point of ridiculousness. Republican politicians dictating the private reproductive decisions of women continually fail to realize that cutting off access to abortion clinics will not decrease demand for abortions. Instead of stopping abortions from occurring, anti-abortion laws force women to improvise, travel further, and pay extra for procedures that are ultimately more risky than any performed in a licensed clinic.

No less important, many clinics targeted by the Texas bill and similar anti-abortion laws provide abortion with many other services vital to women’s health. Planned Parenthood, for example, offers birth control, sexually transmitted infection and HIV testing, pap smears, and breast cancer screenings. When the Texas bill goes into effect, women will not only lose simple and safe access to abortions, but also access to a wide range of other crucial services that may not be available through primary doctors or local hospitals. This bill hardly sounds like one designed with the best interests of Texan women in mind.

More likely, this bill is a predictable attempt by conservative Republicans to hoard control over the reproductive and sexual rights of women.

By staying angry and continuing to fight these misogynistic laws wherever they inevitably arise nationwide, we can prove that the ability of a woman to do with her body as she so chooses can’t be legislated.