Texas: Politicians Use COVID-19 to Restrict Abortion Access

Cover photo, protest led by Popular Women’s Movement against restrictions on abortion. June 2019

By Sandra Harris

Amidst ruling class-fueled panic surrounding COVID-19, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered increased restrictions against abortion on March 23, stating that abortions should not be performed unless the mother’s life is in danger through April 21. Texas is the second state after Ohio to impose such a restriction.

Paxton released this statement a day after Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order mandating health care facilities and professionals to postpone all procedures deemed “not medically necessary,” stating failure to comply with the order could result in penalties up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.

Politicians like Abbott and Paxton are utilizing the opportunity presented by the economic crisis to further attack the rights of working women. While thousands of people in Texas have lost work due to public gathering limitations and business closures due to COVID-19 panic, politicians are using the frenzy to appeal to their reactionary base to restrict abortion access.

Working women already struggle to obtain abortions in Texas. Almost all procedures occur in independent clinics in large cities, making time off to travel and lost wages another challenge. Women are forced to undergo mandatory sonograms and waiting periods, which are medically unnecessary requirements to make the process longer, more expensive, and more inconvenient. Delaying an abortion by weeks can push the ability to access the procedure outside the legal window of already restrictive laws, which in Texas places a limit on most procedures after 20 weeks.

Abbott’s executive order made an exception for procedures that, “would not deplete […] hospital capacity.” This would technically make abortions an exception because so few are ever performed in hospitals, but bourgeois politicians are given plenty of cover when contradicting themselves, especially when using health concerns to scale back rights and access generally.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) decried the move by Abbott and Paxton but have merely focused on empty appeals to their supporters to vote for politicians who might one day enact laws to loosen abortion restrictions. Additionally, several NGOs filed lawsuits that will languish in legal proceedings, which have also been delayed by the COVID-19 panic. The same NGOs have endorsed the government’s call for social distancing.

Reactionary politicians are forging ahead with their agendas during this time, as they take away the people’s ability to work and earn incomes, restrict access to healthcare, and use fear-based mandates to effectively suppress resistance so people remain at home. Their role is not to protect public health or safety, but to provide cover for the imperialist economic crisis.

Chauvinists like Abbott and Paxton are able to use the imperialist economic crisis and the  healthcare crisis to accelerate their attacks on working class women. If women want to end the repression by these reactionaries, they must fight ruling class demands to isolate and instead organize resistance to the backward trajectory of US society, relying on unity with their class to fight for socialist revolution.

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