Today marks six months since Texas’s extreme abortion ban and vigilante scheme took effect–and it is causing panic, chaos and harm for patients seeking abortion care in Texas and beyond.
The law, S.B. 8, bans abortion care after approximately six weeks of pregnancy and incentivizes private individuals to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against anyone who provides care or helps someone get care in the state. The Center for Reproductive Rights has been challenging the law in its case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson.
S.B. 8 has ended most abortion access in the state, rendering the constitutional right to abortion effectively meaningless. Patients in Texas are being turned away in droves, prevented from accessing time-sensitive abortion care, and forced to travel hundreds of miles to other states to access care. Those who can’t afford to travel are being forced to carry pregnancies against their will. Those facing obstacles to accessing care–such as people living on low incomes, Black and brown communities, young people and people in rural areas–are disproportionately impacted by the Texas ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to block this blatantly unconstitutional law, allowing Texas to deprive its residents of the right to abortion since September 1 and betraying “not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government,” according to Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson.
“The Supreme Court has effectively endorsed Texas’s efforts to subvert the U.S. Constitution and has left us no path in this case to block the filing of vigilante lawsuits,” said Molly Duane, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center. “With the case now before the Texas Supreme Court, the best we can hope for is to prevent state licensing boards from enforcing the law.”
Other anti-abortion lawmakers are taking note of Texas’s “vigilante” strategy that has allowed its unconstitutional abortion ban to evade judicial review and stay in effect: Copycat abortion bans mimicking S.B. 8 have been introduced in 10 states, with more likely to come.
Texas Patients Seeking Care Are Overwhelming Clinics in Other States
Without access to abortion care in the state after six weeks of pregnancy, Texas patients who are able to travel are seeking care not only in neighboring states, but in states beyond. This has wreaked havoc on clinics in other states struggling to absorb the huge influx of Texas patients and resulted in long wait times and delays in care for all patients.
Here are some experiences being reported in Texas and other states:
- In a press conference on February 25, Fund Texas Choice, which helps fund Texans’ travel for abortion care, reported that call volume had increased fivefold and the average round trip for a Texas patient seeking abortion rose over 40%, from 807 miles before the law took effect to 1160 miles currently.
- In January 2022, an AP article mentioned that Texas abortion providers reported that they were serving just one-third of their typical number of patients since the law took effect.
- At Whole Woman’s Health in Austin, a provider saw a 90% decrease in the number of abortions he performed the month after the law took effect.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America recently reported data showing the “devastating impact” of S.B. 8. The data, collected from September 1 to December 31, 2021, from its health centers, showed:
- Centers in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri saw a nearly 800% increase of patients from Texas when compared to September to December 2020.
- Centers in Oklahoma saw a nearly 2500% increase in abortion patients with Texas zip codes compared to the previous year, and Texas patients made up more than half of the total number of abortion patients in Oklahoma compared to less than 10% from September to December 2020.
- In Colorado, centers reported a more than 1000%increase in abortion patients with Texas zip codes and in New Mexico, a more than 100% increase, compared to the previous year.
- Data from the Guttmacher Institute indicated that Texas residents have accessed abortion care in at least 12 states that do not border Texas –including states that are hundreds, and even thousands, of miles from the Texas border, such as Illinois, Washington, Ohio and Maryland.
- The clinic administrator of Hope Medical Group in Louisiana stated at the February 25 press conference that the number of its Texas patients increased from 18% before S.B. 8 to more than 60% by year end, resulting in long wait times for appointment availability and making it difficult to serve all the patients who need care.
Texas’s Chaos Offers a Preview if the Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court’s repeated refusal to block S.B. 8 and its disregard for patients in Texas are deeply alarming signs for the future of Roe and abortion access nationwide. What is happening in Texas should be a grave warning for the rest of the country, since the chaos in Texas is a preview of what would happen on a much larger scale if Roe falls.
Before the end of its term in June, the Court will decide the Center’s case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenging a Mississippi abortion ban. In the case, the state of Mississippi has asked the Court to overturn Roe and almost 50 years of precedent and find there is no constitutional right to abortion. If Roe falls, almost half the U.S. states are poised to ban abortion entirely, leaving no access to abortion care across the Midwest and the South.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) in the first-ever Senate vote on proactive federal legislation to enshrine the right to abortion in federal law. The bill—which is supported by a majority of voters in the U.S. and was passed in the House in September—did not receive the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster. The effort to advance this bill in Congress will continue, led by a a coalition of more than 100 organizations, including the Center.
- “Doctors’ worst fears about the Texas abortion law are coming true,” NPR, 03.01.22
- Texas abortion ban case: Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson
- Mississippi abortion ban case: Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
- “What if Roe fell?” interactive tool