By Sandra Harris
Texas Senate Bill 8 took effect on September 1, banning abortion in the state at just six weeks, before the overwhelming majority of women typically know they are pregnant. Studies by abortion rights advocates have estimated that between 85 to 90 percent of abortions occur after six weeks. The law leaves someone less than two weeks to obtain an abortion.
Last week, reproductive legal rights organizations asked the Supreme Court to intervene and block the law from taking effect, but before midnight on September 1 the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to leave it in place.
The law authorizes private individuals to file a civil suit against abortion providers and anyone involved in “aiding or abetting an abortion” after six weeks. If someone wins the lawsuit, the State will award them a minimum of $10,000 that the defendant must pay—essentially a bounty paid out of the target’s own pocket—and force the defendant to pay all legal fees. Those filing lawsuits do not need to have any stake in or be affected in any way by the abortion—as long as they have personal knowledge of an abortion procedure taking place after the six-week cutoff, they have legal standing to sue.
The lawsuits are not limited to the specific healthcare provider who performs the abortion, but also include clinics, nonprofits, and even private individuals who assist in any way—and there are no limits to the number of lawsuits a person can bring against another for “aiding and abetting” the same abortion. These lawsuits can be filed in any of Texas’s 254 counties regardless of where the abortion may have been performed and are not potentially subject to relocation as other lawsuits typically are, giving even greater leverage to anti-abortion reactionaries by allowing them to sue in courts that support their efforts. As with many other laws passed in Texas, it is likely we will see this replicated in other states where anti-abortion politicians are in the majority.
Despite the fact that the formal legal right to an abortion has been effectively dismantled, during the second special session the Texas Legislature passed yet another restriction on abortion, preventing physicians or healthcare providers from giving abortion-inducing medication to patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant.
When asked at a press conference on September 7 why sexual assault survivors impregnated by their rapist would be forced to carry their pregnancy to term, Governor Abbott denied the facts of the law and instead absurdly claimed that Texas would “eliminate all rapists.”
President Biden, who was lauded by the Democratic Party and its boosters as someone who would protect abortion access, sent out a statement on September 2 claiming the Health and Human Services and Department of Justice (DOJ) would “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to the court’s decision.”
On September 9, the Justice Department sued the State of Texas over the law. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit that the Texas law was “clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.” The DOJ lawsuit focuses on the constitutionality of the State deputizing private individuals to trigger enforcement of abortion restrictions, but this lawsuit will eventually work its way back to the Supreme Court, where there is a clear anti-abortion majority.
The conflict between the Supreme Court’s decision and the Biden administration’s response reveals the divide within the ruling class on how to traffic in the struggle over abortion rights in order to serve their political power. The fear of legal liability and financial ruin has shut down several clinics in Texas, showing that under this capitalist system, healthcare does not exist to serve the people, but is subject to the system of private property and bourgeois dictates.
The contradictions within the imperialist State are on display in how it reacts to issues pertaining to women in the US and internationally. On one hand, for decades the US ruling class and monopoly media justified US military presence in Afghanistan over ‘concern’ for the well-being of women. On the other hand, in the belly of the beast, women in one of the most-populated states in the nation could be endlessly harassed through the US legal system for obtaining an abortion, leaving women who are raped unable to get an abortion, or liable to be sued for trying to get one.
Moreover, while monopoly media coverage of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan included portrayals of women who were educated and held jobs under the US occupation, even under the puppet government supported by the US, abortion was illegal except to save the life of the mother, and was heavily stigmatized. The imperialist State will only intervene to a certain extent, bringing women into the workforce to show societal ‘progress.’ However, it does not have a genuine interest in truly transforming the conditions for women and guaranteeing them the ability to make critical healthcare decisions for themselves.
The bourgeois legal system has revealed itself once again as a farce, unwilling to guarantee the basic rights of women. Ultimately, as this ruling proves, legal precedents like Roe v. Wade are merely a form used to justify the State’s rule: it will do as it pleases, and any judicial rule can be bent or broken if necessary.
As mentioned in the article “Understand the Conditions to Fight Anti-Abortion Attacks”:
“Under the capitalist system, no legislative body of officials, and no court system, has ever or will ever represent the interests and needs of the working class—a new system is required. It is a dead end to believe that one day capitalist politicians will ever overturn the plethora of legal and societal burdens on working women. Women can no longer simply settle for legal wrangling or petty reforms.”
To truly defeat these attacks, women must unite and fight for a new socialist system.
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