We Must Step Up the Fight

New Round in Battle over Texas Abortion Clinics, September 12

September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On September 12, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear arguments in a challenge brought by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott that could reinstate a law that would force the closure of all but six or seven abortion clinics in Texas.

Last year, Texas Governor Rick Perry forced through HB2, one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws ever passed. Parts of this law—its requirements that all abortion doctors have hospital admitting privileges, its ban on abortion after 20 weeks, and its onerous restrictions on the administration of medication abortion—have already gone into effect, making abortion much more difficult to access for Texas' more than 26 million people. Half the state's abortion clinics have been forced to close.

The final provision of HB2—the requirement that all abortion clinics comply with the physical standards of ambulatory surgery centers (essentially mini-emergency rooms)—was set to go into effect on September 1, but was overturned at the last minute by Federal Judge Lee Yeakel after a legal challenge brought by several abortion providers. Yeakel ruled that this requirement was not only medically unnecessary, but that it also put an "undue burden" on women's ability to access abortion (this is the constitutional standard established in the 1992 Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey). Yeakel also ruled that two clinics that had previously been forced to close—one in the impoverished Rio Grande region along the U.S./Mexico border, the other in El Paso in the far-western part of the state) should be able to re-open.

This was a very important, albeit partial, victory.

Throughout the summer, StopPatriarchy.org mobilized a powerful Abortion Rights Freedom Ride that brought dozens of volunteers down to Texas for over a month to fight against these clinic closures. The Freedom Ride organized People's Hearings as well as dramatic photogenic protests in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley and raised the slogans "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and "Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement" to not only wake people up to the immediate emergency in Texas, but also to mobilize them against the nationwide assault on women's right to abortion and full reproductive rights.

These mobilizations by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride—including 16 arrests during two different protests, and a nationwide Week of Defiance that included actions in Mississippi, Seattle, New York City, western Illinois, Little Rock, Missouri, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere, were projected to millions through both the English and Spanish-language media and brought a new defiant element into this fight. Without this, there would have been no mass resistance to these clinic closures and millions would have been kept in the dark as to the full scope and stakes of this emergency. This not only contributed to the atmosphere in which these closures were blocked; this work has further carved out a new road in the movement for women's abortion rights and all-around liberation: a road of mass, independent political resistance that does not rely on the courts or the politicians.

Now, as this ruling is being appealed and could be overturned following the hearing in New Orleans on September 12, it is more urgent than ever that people throughout the country stand up and raise their voices against any more clinic closures. When abortion is not available on demand and without apology, women have their lives foreclosed by forced motherhood or they risk their lives and prison to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

We must not allow this. Check revcom.us for ongoing coverage and to get the biggest picture of how this fits into everything else going on and what to do about it, and check StopPatriarchy.org to learn about and join in plans to take to the streets, and express opposition to this online wherever you are.

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