Commentary Abortion

New Texas Law Unfair, Increases Inequality

Amanda Marcotte

There is a larger theme of the anti-choice movement that the Texas decision really brings to the forefront: The profound commitment to unfairness and inequality that holds the anti-choice movement together. It's unfair to Texans, unfair to lower-income women, and unfair to taxpayers.

Read all of Rewire‘s coverage of the recent fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

There will be many, many pixels spent on the ramifications of the new law in Texas, signed by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, a law set to close most of the abortion clinics in the state. I’ll spill some myself, and already have. What I want to address is the larger theme of the anti-choice movement that the Texas decision really brings to the forefront: The profound commitment to unfairness and inequality that holds the anti-choice movement together. Not just between men and women, though it’s certainly true that subjecting those with a uterus to state control over their reproductive organs contributes to that inequality. The anti-choice movement and their goals are unfair on every level, and the Texas decision shows that.

1) Inequality by geography. The anti-choice movement’s strategy of attacking abortion rights on a state-by-state basis may have been the expedient choice—it’s much easier to get largely unpopular abortion restrictions passed through state than national politics—but it’s also one that creates massive gulfs in access based on nothing more than geography. Even though all Americans are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law, laws like this mean some Americans can’t easily get to an abortion clinic while some have all the access they need. This was already true for a lot of Texans compared to, say, New Yorkers—the anti-choice climate plus the huge swaths of rural land without much in the way of abortion access made sure of that—but this law will dramatically deepen the disparity between who and who does not have realistic access to their abortion rights.

In other words, Texas politicians just targeted their own people for the removal of rights, or at least realistic access to those rights. It’s not New Yorkers or Californians that will have to scrape together hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get access to a safe, legal abortion. It’s Texans, and for no other reason than the accident of geography. To make it worse, this disparity will happen within the state, too, as people who live in the urban areas around Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas will have clinics relatively close, but those who live in West Texas will have nothing.

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2) Inequality by wealth. What that means, of course, is that the already-existing gaps of access between women of means and those without will get much worse. It’s a struggle for working class and low-income women to get any kind of health care; it’s a struggle for them to get an abortion even if there’s a clinic right down the street, because you still have to come up with $300-$600 to pay for the procedure. Now it’s just going to get worse, as many women will have to drive—or fly, because it’s really that far away now—hundreds of miles to get to clinic. Or worse than that, because the five remaining clinics won’t be able to handle the abortion demand, so women will have to look outside of the state, or even halfway around the country.

For women with means, being able to take an “abortion vacation,” perhaps flying to New York City for an abortion and staying in a hotel—maybe go see some sights while you’re there!—will be totally doable. For those who can’t just afford to drop a couple of thousands of dollars and take the time off work, that will be an impossibility. No wonder there’s an already existing black market in abortion pills, one that’s expected to grow after this law goes into action.

3) Unfairness to taxpayers/inequality in movement funding. One of the most under-discussed issues here is that the anti-choice movement is basically redirecting necessary tax revenues needed for things like education and infrastructure to fund their movement. Texas passed a law that is in direct violation of the “undue burden” clause of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That means that the legislators opened up the state to a lawsuit, but it’s going to be an extremely expensive one, almost surely running into the millions of dollars. All the lawyers working to defend this law? Paid for by the taxpayers of the state of Texas.

Meanwhile, the pro-choice side that will be filing the lawsuits is funded mostly through donations, probably solely by donations from interested pro-choicers. The people who file lawsuits, provide lawyers, appeal decisions, spend their years in court protecting women’s rights work for nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights. While it is true that Planned Parenthood gets government money—though anti-choicers clearly would love to stop that—it’s not used for filing lawsuits or defending the right to choose. (Or for abortion, for that matter.) It’s strictly for direct services like contraception that actually end up paying for themselves by tremendous savings in health-care costs. The pro-choice movement saves the taxpayers money by providing inexpensive health care, and in thanks, the anti-choice movement uses taxpayer money to try to shut the pro-choice movement down and reverse all the gains it has achieved for women.

If nothing else, this is why the public needs to understand that the anti-choice movement is not their friend. At the end of the day, anti-choicers want to take away your basic human rights and then turn around and tax you in order to pay for it. It’s a massive redistribution of tax money, redirecting it from important services that actually help taxpayers to funding the anti-choice movement and its solitary goal of punishing women for having sex.

Texas is a particularly gross example of this, and not just because its new law will be very expensive to defend in court. While the state has been restoring some of the money cut from necessary services like education in 2011, it’s still also raiding its rainy day fund for infrastructure projects that the massive drought has made necessary. The money anti-choicers are going to use to defend this new law could have been used for more productive means, such as improving education, helping build infrastructure to cope with the increasing weather-related problems in the state, or even fixing roads. Instead, it’s going to the goal of controlling your uterus. That’s not just unfair to women who need abortions. It’s unfair to everyone.

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