After A Year of Anti-Choice Attacks, This Young Texas Latina Is Fighting Back
I don’t actually remember what happened to the condom—just that it was on one minute and then not on the next. Afterward, when my boyfriend and I realized what had happened, we sat on the edge of his twin bed, half-dressed. I knew I wanted to buy some Plan B emergency contraception.
I was sixteen when this happened. As a teen in Texas, I had seen firsthand how hard it could be to get reproductive health care, especially if you are poor, young, undocumented, differently abled, LGBTQIA+, Black, Hispanic, or a person of color. The Supreme Court abortion case win this summer was a major triumph for reproductive justice, but Texas anti-choice politicians have since continued to attack reproductive healthcare access in the state.
HB2, the law at the center of the SCOTUS case, was a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law: it sought to regulate abortion providers out of business and create new and onerous barriers to abortion care. Despite the Court’s ruling that this law was unconstitutional because it placed an undue burden on individuals seeking abortion care, at least 27 Texas abortion clinics had already closed (and are still closed) as a result of it. Texas now has just 19 abortion clinics left, and in addition to few clinics, mandatory counseling, sonograms, 24-hour forced delays, and other TRAP laws mean that the financial, physical, emotional, and logistical cost of an abortion is at a record high. An unprecedented number of Texans cannot afford the procedure.
Abortion care is not the only form of reproductive health care that anti-choice politicians want to limit, though. At the time that I needed to take Plan B, emergency contraception could not be sold to women under the age of 17 without a prescription. So I stood, hyperventilating in the ambiance of fluorescent Walgreens lighting, behind my 17-year-old boyfriend as he presented his ID and requested the Plan B from a blank-faced, but kind-eyed, pharmacist.
The law regarding the sale of Plan B to minors has changed, but laws targeting young Texans still exist. Texas currently requires all minors who want an abortion to inform their legal guardians about their procedure or seek a judicial bypass. As of January 1st of 2016, that means that said minors must file a petition and appear in court before a judge, who has the power to decide whether or not they can get the healthcare they need.
This misguided law assumes that all minors come from stable homes, that they are supported by their parent or guardian, that they are literate, and that they have the wherewithal and resources to figure out how to file a petition in court. These requirements are at their core racist and classist. What about minors living in Texas without their guardians because the Rio Grande separates them? What about undocumented minors whose very existence is threatened by contact with law enforcement?
But minors aren’t the only Texans targeted by anti-choice lawmakers: They want to prevent all Texans from accessing reproductive healthcare. Our Supreme Court win was like dousing a fire-ant hill with water: now lots of tiny, angry, red-faced anti-choice insects are trying to enact further abortion restrictions. On July 1st, on the heels of the pro-choice SCOTUS victory, Governor Abbott proposed fetal tissue burial codes that would require all fetal tissue to be interred or cremated. Luckily, this rule has been put on hold temporarily and it is being challenged in court, but it is yet another example of a targeted attack of abortion providers, intended to shame those who need their services and hinder their access to them by adding cost and time to the procedure.
In August, journalists revealed that the state of Texas awarded more than one million taxpayer dollars to an anti-choice activist group. This money was supposed to be used to provide healthcare to women, but instead will now be used to help fund so-called “crisis pregnancy centers.” These sham clinics use scare tactics and shaming to prevent pregnant people from seeking abortion care and often do not even employ medical staff of any kind.
Perhaps laws like these contributed to a report late last summer that Texas’ maternal mortality rate was not only the highest in the nation but also doubled from 2011-2014. Anti-choice politicians claimed to be at a loss as to why the rate jumped, and few commented on the findings. But this was, after all, the exact time during which Texas dismantled the family planning program and started shutting down abortion providers. Everything’s’ bigger in Texas, right? Even our denial.
Finally, as September came to a close, the Texas Tribune reported that the state health commission was hiring a six-figure salaried “Director of Women’s Education Services” to coordinate anti-abortion and abstinence-only education efforts. This includes overseeing state relations with the Texas Pregnancy Care Network, a network of crisis pregnancy centers that aim to mislead and misinform women about pregnancy and childbirth with the goal of scaring them out of considering abortion. The Director would also coordinate with the Texas Abstinence Education Services Program, which helps local groups tell 13-year-olds that having sex before marriage makes them the equivalent of a chewed up Dorito (as was my experience at a public Texas middle school). This proselytizing is being funded by our tax dollars!
When I remember my own experience as a young Tejana so broke that I literally dug through couch cushions to find enough money to afford Plan B, I am grateful for my resilience. But I am also disgusted that a group of white male ideologues had the power to legislate my access to reproductive health care. It was not and never will be just. The 2017 Texas Legislative session is barreling towards us, and recent elections have emboldened racist, classist, anti-choice politicians. In fact, anti-choice politicians in Texas have already proposed at least 5 anti-reproductive justice bills for next year including, a law that would criminalize abortion in the case of fetal abnormality after 20 weeks gestation and a law that would prevent Texas cities from outlawing discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity.
So, to my fellow young Texans who believe in reproductive justice: it’s time to boot up. The upcoming session promises to be a rough ride, and we have to give them hell.
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