Lawsuit Challenges Texas Abortion Laws That Target Women of Color

By Ayana Byrd Jun 15, 2018

A coalition of reproductive rights advocates are working on what they call a “big fix” to Texas’ restrictive abortion laws.

Yesterday (June 14), a coalition of doctors and reproductive rights organizations filed a lawsuit challenging a wide range of the state’s abortion laws. Dozens of existing, restrictive policies were targeted. Per Rewire.News:


The lawsuit identified five categories of laws being challenged, including targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws, restrictions on medication abortion and telemedicine abortion; requirements that patients receive state-mandated forced counseling; parental involvement requirements that restrict minors’ access to abortion services; and laws that criminalize abortion providers.


Nan Little Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, said in a statement that these laws create a burdensome regulatory regime for providers and uncertainty for people seeking abortion care.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned major provisions of Texas’ House Bill 2, a 2013 law that the justices said, in a 5-3 decision, did not provide “medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.” The plaintiffs in the current lawsuit—Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, The Afiya CenterTexas Equal Access Fund, Lilith Fund, Fund Texas Choice and West Fund—are optimistic that the Court will back additional repeals before there is a significant overturn in the justices.

The suit was filed at a time when the Republican-controlled state legislature continues to pass restrictive laws. Per Texas Observer:


One bill proposed during the last session of the Texas Legislature would have criminalized abortion and charged women and providers with murder. The Legislature passed a measure that bans the most common form of second-trimester abortion, and another that requires the burial or cremation of fetal remains after abortions and miscarriages. Both are currently blocked, but some anti-abortion advocates hope to push the former to the Supreme Court.

While the laws targeted in the lawsuit potentially apply to all Texan women, they disproportionately affect certain demographics. “The group of laws being challenged may seem on the surface to be a hodgepodge of random requirements, but together they weave a huge barrier to abortion access for thousands of people in Texas, especially low-income people, people of color, and people in our vast rural areas,” Kirkpatrick of Texas Equal Access Fund said in a statement.

These communities are typically the ones to bear the brunt of restrictive reproductive rights laws. “Black women’s reproductive choices have historically been under attack and we stand here today on our historical experiences for the right to choose,” Marsha Jones, executive director of Afiya Center, said in a statement. “We have always resisted, and we will continue to resist these antiquated laws that the state of Texas is attempting to move forward to control our reproductive destinies.”