The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has thrown the future of abortion rights in the U.S. into question. While Kavanaugh acknowledged during his confirmation hearing that Roe v. Wade— the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. — is “precedent,” his troubling track record on abortion rights shows that he could very well overturn it entirely or gut it. And many states are preparing to advance their own political agendas in the event that Kavanaugh rules either way.
This isn’t new for the people of Texas. In fact, we’ve been living in this reality for a long time. Anti-abortion politicians have been passing restrictions on abortion access for decades, putting care especially out of reach for marginalized communities.
The Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity provided direct financial assistance to approximately 1,500 Texans seeking abortion care last year, the majority of whom were those most often affected by these restrictions— low-income people, women of color, and those who are already parents. For more than 15 years, our hotline volunteers have heard firsthand the stories of Texans forced by our lawmakers to decide between receiving abortion care and putting food on the table.
In fact, decades of political interference in the decision to have an abortion have made Texas one of 29 states considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and tracks state abortion policy. And at this time, insurance coverage for abortion care is increasingly important, since the squeeze of more and more state restrictions and lack of federal protections have made it harder than ever for low-income people to get an abortion if they need one.
The 2017 ban on private insurance coverage for abortion, along with the Hyde Amendment, a federal provision that restricts Medicaid coverage of this medical care, forces people to pay out-of-pocket. And additional state restrictions on abortion, including Texas’ mandatory sonogram and 24-hour waiting period and attempts to outright ban safe abortion procedures create unnecessary delays and stigmatizing hurdles.
As our 2019 legislative session looms, anti-abortion politicians and ideologues have been crystal clear that they are coming for our rights yet again, openly declaring at a recent event for anti-abortion student activists that “Roe right now is the target.”
Bans on abortion coverage have real consequences for our communities. Our shameful federal and state policies force people like Lilith Fund clients to delay care, stop Texans from getting abortions, and push people deeper into poverty. Research shows that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking an abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. And when a woman wants to get an abortion but is denied, she is more likely to fall into poverty, less likely to have a full-time job, and twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence.
Statistics aside, access to the full range of reproductive health care, including safe abortion, means having the ability to control your life.
This is why the work of local abortion funds is so critical. Together with our partners, the Lilith Fund is fighting for change and fighting to end the Hyde Amendment—through federal legislation, state advocacy, and litigation.
We have rallied support for the federal EACH Woman Act, which guarantees abortion coverage for everyone, however much money they earn or how they’re insured. During the last Texas legislative session, more than a dozen state House members supported state Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, with white roses pinned to their lapels, as she read the story of Rosie Jimenez, a McAllen woman who died obtaining an illegal abortion in 1977 following the passage of the Hyde Amendment the previous year.
And earlier this year, we joined several state partners as plaintiffs in the People’s Lawsuit to fight back against dozens of anti-choice restrictions that prevent our communities from accessing safe abortion. At state and local levels, we’ll continue to push for comprehensive coverage of abortion access for all Texans wherever they live or however much money they have.
We want to build a future where our families can thrive, and where we can make our own decisions about pregnancy and parenting. In Texas, reproductive rights and justice advocates know what it's like to face tough odds. We’ve been fighting for ourselves, and each other, for generations.
It’s time to hit the streets, organize, get out the vote, and show our strength.