There’s a piece from 2016 that comes to my mind when I think about abortion in Texas. It’s by a former colleague of mine, Hannah Smothers, about the ill thoughts that liberals have about Texas and their conflating its government with its people. She interviewed Andrea Grimes, another journalist and feminist activist, who has since moved to California and then back to Texas, who also wrote piece with a similar sentiment about liberals dismissing the good people of Texas, along with Beto O’Rourke’s deepest betrayal (my opinion, not hers).
In Hannah’s piece, “Stop Telling the South to Secede,” she quoted Grimes as saying, “I think that [people in liberal states] don’t understand how bad it is for people here in terms of reproductive rights and access to basic health care like abortion and birth control … We are never seen by coastal liberals until we do something bad, and then we are seen as being worthless.”
My recollection of this piece, in this context, is less centered around the disappointment for people who’d rather shit on Texas than help us improve our leadership, but about the difficult work that abortion access workers and advocates do amid endless attacks from our government. And somehow, even during a health and unemployment crisis in the least-insured state in the country, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have still managed to target people who need abortions amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, Abbott announced the state had postponed surgeries and medical procedures “that are not immediately, medically necessary.” The day after, Paxton clarified that the postponed procedure list included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Ohio pulled a similar move on abortion last week, influenced by anti-abortion groups in the state.
Paxton’s clarification came hours before Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went on Fox News to tell Tucker Carlson that the country’s seniors would gladly yeet themselves for the stability of the economy, as a treat. Perhaps this is the death cult’s silver lining—what’s the big deal about losing a few hundred thousand old people when we have the ability to force pregnant people carry to term? Problem solved.
Of course, Texas’ understanding that abortion isn’t “immediately, medically necessary” is deeply flawed. Any abortion any person wants for themselves at any time is medically necessary. Ignoring that reality also ignores the ways in which pregnancy, even when planned, completely fucks up a person’s life.
Abbott’s order targets procedures that would “correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death.” Being pregnant is a serious medical condition with adverse medical consequence in the first place. Abortions are time-sensitive, and clinics and providers are already few and far between. Abortions should continue under this new Texas policy by the facts of the procedure alone. Alas, that would be true if we operated on the condition that facts mattered to the people in power.
Abortion access organizations are used to these attacks and are continually willing to fight. On Wednesday, several groups including Austin Women’s Health Center, Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center, and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance sued Texas to block the order and resume abortions. But Texas abortion providers were struggling amid the pandemic even before this weekend’s new rules.
Shae Ward, a hotline coordinator for statewide abortion fund Lilith Fund, told Rewire News last week that they were hearing from people who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic, and wanted to get an abortion before it the procedure was no longer available. One abortion clinic in Dallas-Fort Worth that depends on traveling doctors to provide abortions for about 150 people a week is shit out of luck—shelter in place orders, quarantine, and doctors with a high risk for contracting the virus have made the clinic impossible to staff. Abortion patients are among the people whose medical needs will suffer, coming second to addressing the patients of the pandemic, because federal and state governments ignored the growing threat of the novel coronavirus. I’m pained to think of how many people will find themselves caring for a child they can’t afford, with a job that no longer exists.
In a state where abortion isn’t generally rightfully available, people are desperate to get the medical procedures they need, and while some Texans may be able to travel elsewhere or obtain abortions otherwise, many will carry their unwanted pregnancies to term. This is violence, and nothing less.
Featured image via mirsasha/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)