On the Supreme Court’s Refusal To Intervene in Texas’ "Flagrantly Unconstitutional" Abortion Law
AAPF Denounces the Supreme Court’s Refusal To Intervene
in Texas’ “Flagrantly Unconstitutional” Abortion Law
September 7, 2021
Today we stand in solidarity with all those in Texas who have been harmed by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas to ban safe and legal abortion. The full sweep of the rightwing putsch for coercive control of women’s bodies and decision making has come into view. This law must be understood as part and parcel of a whole body of legislation the state has either ratified or scheduled to enact designed to narrow the exercise of hard-won constitutional and civil rights to the vanishing point.
The law seeks not merely to restrict access to abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy—an absurdly short time window that amounts in practice to a de facto abortion ban—but also hands over enforcement to vigilantes who may sue anyone suspected of defying the ban; anyone, that is, except the woman, who is deemed to have no agency in her own health care. This draconian legislation, reminiscent of the bounty-hunting of Black people authorized under the Fugitive Slave Law, will have a particularly pernicious effect on Black and brown women who already have limited access to reproductive care services in the state, and whose rates of maternal mortality are three times that of white women.
All sorts of surface-level ironies are apparent. The same political movement that derides Covid-19 vaccines and masking mandates as state-sanctioned assaults on the sacrosanct bodily freedom of the individual is going to unprecedented lengths to prevent women from exercising the most basic sort of autonomy over their own bodies and health care decisions.
The Texas abortion law is but one high-profile measure in a larger agenda for minority rule by the privileged few.
Texas’s GOP-controlled state legislature recently endorsed one of the nation’s most draconian crackdowns on ballot access, especially in districts with high concentrations of African-American and Latinx voters, continuing a trend in Texas set off by the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder effectively repealing the enforcement provisions of the 1964 Voting Rights Act.
In the wake of the 2020 protests sparked by the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, Texas also enacted severe criminal penalties for demonstrators held to be obstructing traffic or endangering “critical infrastructure.”
And, as our #TruthBeTold campaign has highlighted, Texas is also among the 29 states in the process of advancing bans on public school instruction that includes the precepts of critical race theory—or indeed, any discussion of race in classrooms that might prove upsetting or otherwise “divisive” for students forced to confront the true proportions of the state’s and nation’s racist past.
It’s vital to understand that the interlocking crackdowns on civil rights in Texas are all of a piece—and that they are similarly linked up with a nationwide assault on free expression, ballot access, and racial and gender equality in America. From the vigilante enforcement of coerced child-bearing to mandatory instruction in whitewashed history to blocking mass participation in the electoral process and crackdowns on the First Amendment rights to civil assembly, the Texas legislature is showing us what the future agenda of right-wing rule looks like, in all spheres of public life and across all phases of the life cycle.
In the face of the new rolling gag rules of the twenty-first century, it’s more urgent than ever to make our voices heard. The architects of the rightwing crackdown do not view reproductive rights, anti-racist education, and ballot access as battles in isolation from one another—and neither should we.
For twenty-five years, AAPF has foregrounded the imperative to address the intersections of social injustice, providing tools we need better to see and dismantle the threats to our collective wellbeing. Our work has never been more urgent.
We know from our past that the losses can mount into a powerful, multi-generational avalanche of repression that can stretch well into the future. The threat we face is not solely the product of right wing power, but of the failures of those who could have done the right thing, but who failed to answer the call. This is happening on our watch. The time to take action is now.
Join us in fighting like our lives depend on it. Because they do.
The African American Policy Forum