Women in Texas React to the Near-Total Abortion Ban

On Wednesday, September 1, SB8—the controversial and extreme new Texan law that prohibits abortions after six weeks—took effect. In addition to effectively banning almost all abortions across the state, it also now allows people to sue abortion providers and anyone suspected of enabling an abortion. 

SB8 won’t be enforced through criminalization but rather through weaponizing civil litigation. Doctors, nurses, clinic staff, Uber drivers, and many others now have financial and professional incentives not to participate in any activity contributing to an abortion to avoid being sued, and SB8 rewards plaintiffs with up to $10,000 in damages for reporting information considered to aid and abet an abortion.

This will only further exacerbate the massive disparities between rich and poor women in the state of Texas. Here, like the rest of the country, the financial expense of being a mother can lead to generations of poverty, poor health, and mortality for mothers and their children. And yet teachers in the state are not given proper curricula to prepare and inform students because Texas public schools are not required to teach sex education and must emphasize abstinence if they do.

Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives spent weeks in Washington, D.C., this summer after breaking quorum during Governor Greg Abbott’s special session to avoid voting on a series of bills like SB8. The members also worked to bring national awareness to Texas as ground zero for the Republican-fueled legislation. But the Supreme Court will not be intervening, which could signal trouble for Roe v. Wade and other legal issues related to women’s bodies, health, and safety.

Oklahoma is already seeing a rise in abortion patients from Texas, with New Mexico and border cities like Ciudad Juarez, near El Paso, also expected to be impacted. (U.S. citizens are able to travel back into the country from Mexico despite the travel restrictions in place.) But access to state-boundary-crossing abortions are only available to a privileged population that can afford the time and expense to do so.

Now many women across Texas are coming to terms with the bleak future for reproductive health and rights, while also reflecting on the legislative actions that brought us here. Glamour spoke with eight, below. 

Alexandria,* 36, El Paso, lawyer

I think it’s despicable. Again, a bunch of wealthy white men are determining what women of all ages, races, and backgrounds can do with their bodies. Women will go out of state to get abortions or do them illegally, risking their health. And those with less access to reproductive and contraceptive education or fewer resources may end up pregnant at a disproportionate rate, with no option to choose. That affects their futures, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty, need, and lack of opportunities. This law is patriarchy in living color.

Masks are a violation of the (read: men’s) “right to choose” and should be banned…that’s the position of the Texas government. But women’s bodies aren’t theirs to control, apparently. Can you believe that? This law reeks of hypocrisy. If the law affected men, there would be no way it would have made it past the legislature.

The act of paying snitches to rat out those who engage in abortion-related procedures is disgusting. Texas is using my taxpayer money to perpetuate its own version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Penny, 25, Dallas, teacher

It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I would consider myself pro-life, which is why I vote for pro-choice policies. Over and over we see that restrictions only increase the number of abortions that happen overall, legal or otherwise, and increase maternal deaths in a state that is already doing so abysmally in that regard. So, so many people are going to die. The state is grandstanding on lives, and I am ashamed to be represented by a government with such little regard for real people in real, unbearably difficult situations.

Michelle, 36, Austin, consultant

I am a lifelong Texas resident who has needed—and had access to—a safe, legal abortion in the state. The relief that came with that access is something I have and will continue to be grateful for. My heart breaks for the many, many Texas women who will now have that access to lifesaving health care denied to them and whose bodies are now just a political stage where the battle for more power and control will continue to take place without apology by the Republican party.

Andi, 25, El Paso, student

As a trans woman, when Trump was elected, I was terrified. Now it’s just as infuriating that in the middle of a pandemic, when the state won’t even mandate masks or protective measures against a deadly virus, they can pass laws that control a woman’s body.

K.L., 41, Austin, pharmaceutical salesperson

It’s terrifying! Specifically for those who are rape and incest survivors. I have three daughters, and now I’m wondering if I should put them on birth control when they begin to menstruate as a precaution in case—God forbid—one of them is raped.

Brittany, 33, Dallas, business development consultant

We are already dealing with a mental health crisis in America. To add this layer of distress to women of childbearing years is taking away a decision that should be ours and ours alone. It is basically saying, “Okay, women of the USA, we trust you to lead communities, we believe in your decisions. But wait, you’re not cognizant enough to know if you are ready, willing, or able to bear a child.” I see this doing detrimental damage to women that have no decision now.

Tatum, 22, Austin, retail associate

If I was a young girl and abortions were banned, I would take that as a sign that our bodies and our autonomy does not matter: I do not get to decide what I do with my life, if I want to have a baby or not. If I am a fit mother or not. A man and a stranger decide what I do with my body. That is a very painful thing for a young girl to believe.

Savannah, 36, El Paso, office manager

I feel like I’m having my voice taken away from me. My freedom to choose what to do with my own body is being taken away from me. It makes me scared that the government will make more laws on what I can and cannot do with my body.

Erin Coulehan is a writer and reporter based in El Paso, Texas. 

*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed, and some quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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