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Commentary Law and Policy

Today We Celebrate; Tomorrow We Fight

Nan Little Kirkpatrick

The fight against the Texas abortion clinic shutdown law was brought to us, and we fought it. But we’re going to continue bringing the fight for true reproductive justice to our communities.

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the right to an abortion when it struck down two provisions of the Texas abortion law known as HB 2. Texas abortion rights advocates, including myself, have waited three long and emotional years for this moment, and honestly it still hasn’t quite sunk in. Had the Court decided differently, we would’ve seen abortion access further devastated in our own state, and other states would’ve fallen like dominoes as well.

But on Tuesday, when we woke up from our celebrations, Texas still had less than half the clinics we had when HB 2 passed in 2013. People in areas like the Panhandle, where Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund used to fund people going to clinics in Lubbock, Abilene, San Angelo, and Midland, still have no clinics, and people there are still hundreds of miles from abortion care. Former TEA Fund Executive Director Merritt Tierce wrote about her anger over what this law did to people seeking abortion in Texas in the last three years, and the truth is, the law will continue to hinder access for a very long time.

Immediately following the ruling, the question on everyone’s lips was: “How long until we see clinics reopening in underserved areas?” The answer is that we don’t know. We know that it will take time and money for those interested in restoring access to find facilities, make those facilities operational, and re-staff in communities that have been without clinics now for years. It’s not as easy as flipping a switch.

Texas abortion funds TEA Fund and Lilith Fund took up the fight against HB 2 because laws like this are highly discriminatory against the people we’ve long servedlow-income people in Texas. HB 2 so devastated access in our state that after the passage of the law, a new procedural fund came online in El Paso, the West Fund, and practical support funds and organizations Fund Texas Choice, the Clinic Access Support Network, the Bridge Collective, the Cicada Collective, and the La Frontera Fund started quickly coming online or increasing their service capacity to help people with travel and lodging.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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Into the void of access rushed abortion advocates to fill the need, showing the power of organizing in the face of such reproductive oppression. Still, this system of mostly volunteer-led organizations figuring out how to cover the costs of thousands of people in Texas seeking care is a far cry from what we truly want: true reproductive justice for all people in the form of economic, racial, and gender justice.

There is so much left to do. TEA Fund has existed since 2005, long before HB 2 was even a gleam in some Texas lawmaker’s eye. We exist because we live in a state where there is no Medicaid funding for abortion access, and, even if there were, hardly anyone can access Medicaid in Texas anyway. We exist because of the huge disparities in economic opportunity in our state, disparities that especially highlight racial injustice. There are neighborhoods in the southern sector of Dallas where the population is about 98 percent Black and Latino and the median income is around $15,659, far below the state average of $53,035, while all the Dallas neighborhoods with median incomes over $150,000 are 85 percent or more white.

TEA Fund exists because many people still do not see the links between reproductive oppression, lack of health-care access more generally, and economic and racial oppression. We exist because of the Hyde Amendment, and we continue to work to see it removed. These are big, long-term battles, and TEA Fund and abortion funds are in these struggles alongside groups working against economic and racial oppression.

The fight against the Texas abortion clinic shutdown law was brought to us, and we fought it. But we’re going to continue bringing the fight for true reproductive justice to our communities, because we will only be able to say we truly won when people have complete equitable access to abortion and all forms of health care and security.

We needed this win, and there is no reason to discount the win. I am also so very proud of TEA Fund and our colleagues in this fight, as we have strengthened our own relationships with each other in the wake of the clinic closures so that we might better serve our various Texas communities. But what we need is for people to remain in this fight with us, because this win is just a beginning.

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