This month, in the dead of the night, the US Supreme Court turned its back on 50 years of precedent by rendering Roe v. Wade effectively meaningless in the state of Texas.
Texas’ SB8 is the latest and most extreme in a string of abortion bans enacted by states in the past few years. It empowers private citizens to surveil and sue complete strangers over their personal health decisions. It puts people’s lives at risk and leaves Texans without the ability to determine their own futures. The Supreme Court failed to act as a backstop— the 5-4 decision was swung by a judge who only landed on the court after a democratically elected president’s nominee was denied a hearing. Soon, this court, which President Donald Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell carefully curated by appointing three justices, could fulfill the dreams of right-wing organizations and overturn Roe.
As two people who have been in this fight for a long time, we know that this blatantly unconstitutional law in Texas represents: a nationwide campaign to end access to abortion in this country. But there is a broader agenda at play here as well.
It is no coincidence that Texas enacted sweeping restrictions on the right to vote just days after the abortion ban went into effect. It’s difficult to understand SB8 or the antiabortion movement without tackling the centuries-old crusade to oppresses and disenfranchises Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in America. These parallel campaigns share a common mission of enforcing a hierarchy of privilege for white men. After all, the reproductive lives of people of color, young people, LGBTQ+ folks, and people in communities with low incomes are at stake in every election — and it’s these communities that are disproportionately disenfranchised by voter suppression schemes. Without the right to vote, people lose their power to decide.
The states that ban abortion are not Republican states. They’re voter suppression states. The Texas Legislature exists as it does because of gerrymandering and the suppression of Black and brown voters. Those politicians are waging the same war their Jim Crow forefathers did — to disenfranchise, control, and undermine the health of their own residents who don’t look like them.
The decision to end a pregnancy is a personal one, but make no mistake: The right to an abortion has overwhelming support. Eight in 10 Americans support safe, legal abortion. That may not be apparent looking at the current landscape in America, but that’s not because people don’t hold this fundamental right sacred. It’s because they’ve been denied entry to the democratic process and representation in government.
Planned Parenthood sees firsthand how these antiabortion laws have long harmed the health of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color: Patients who already face the greatest obstacles to abortion care. Patients who suffer from staggeringly high rates of maternal mortality. Patients who already have children and are doing their best to care for their families. Antiabortion policies deny bodily autonomy and can condemn patients, at worst, to death. When will these restrictions be draconian enough to inspire action on a national level?
The ability to preserve and protect everyone’s access to reproductive care rests on their right to vote. We need Congress to act by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Freedom to Vote Act, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, and by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment. There is no time left for inaction. We cannot allow the reality of Texas to become the reality of the United States of America. We have to demand a world where all people can afford and access the medical care they need, in a democracy that lives up to our highest ideals for every person.
In Massachusetts, we’ve led the way in protecting and expanding access to abortion. We passed laws codifying the right to abortion, removing harmful barriers to care, and investing in birth control and reproductive care. The antiabortion movement is insatiable, but they’re playing a losing game. Abortion access is popular, safe, and a human right. It’s also the foundation of self-determination and freedom for millions of Americans. You don’t give up on basic human rights.
We certainly won’t. We will make sure patients, wherever they may be from, can get basic medical care. We’ll support the US Department of Justice, abortion providers, and advocates in Texas in their fight to end this ban in federal court and take every legal action necessary to protect those who provide abortion care across America. And we will demand that every person has unfettered access to the ballot box — all without political obstruction. That is true freedom.
Maura Healey is the attorney general of Massachusetts. Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak is the president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.