On Thursday, something unprecedented happened in Congress. In a powerful House Oversight Committee hearing concerning growing state-level attacks on abortion care, Representatives Barbara Lee, Cori Bush and Pramila Jayapal, and Texan and community organizer for the Texas Equal Access Fund Maleeha Azizall told their personal abortion stories. They did so to help change the conversation around abortion in the U.S. and send a message that abortion restrictions aren’t about politics but about people.
At the same time, the legal fight over Texas’s extreme abortion ban continues this week, as a federal judge considers whether to halt the enforcement of the law.
Nearly 50 years of playing defense against extreme anti-abortion political forces have gotten us where we are today: in the midst of an all-out attack on abortion access, with the Supreme Court allowing Texas politicians to effectively ban abortion in the state, signaling a green light to eager politicians elsewhere that the road is cleared for similar bans across the country.
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If Texas is not the canary in the coal mine, I don’t know what is. It has been 31 days since the Supreme Court made roughly 7 million Texans of child-bearing age — and their families — subject to the political whims of anti-abortion extremists from the state house all the way to the highest ranks of the federal judiciary. And as the Supreme Court prepares to consider a case this December that threatens legal abortion like never before, we must act swiftly and boldly to protect abortion access and expand reproductive freedom in the U.S., or many more of us will see our rights, dignity and opportunities stripped away. And if our efforts center racial, economic and immigrant justice, we can seize a key opportunity to energize and mobilize a progressive base that is hungry for bold leadership — while preserving and expanding access to health care for decades to come.
This isn’t the time to play more defense or be timid about our policy asks. We can and should think much bigger about what is necessary for an abortion landscape with true and equitable access for all. The time is now for a movement that recognizes the totality of our lives and loves, honors our families’ holistic needs and sees the urgency of correcting the deep economic injustices that anti-abortion lawmakers prey upon.
The time for abortion justice — a framework that incorporates racial, economic and immigrant justice into solutions to the massive barriers to abortion — is now.
For decades, policymakers have ignored the expertise of those who have been most harmed by abortion bans and coverage restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, which denies insurance coverage of abortion for people enrolled in Medicaid: people of color, who are inevitably promised that “our” issues will be addressed the next time around. As Representative Bush noted in her remarks during the hearing on Thursday, Black women “live in a society that has failed to legislate love and justice for us. But we deserve better. We demand better.”
And yet, efforts focused exclusively on maintaining legal abortion haven’t even managed to preserve Roe v. Wade’s protections in the second-largest state in the union, where racist attacks on the right to vote and decades of right-wing gerrymandering have already disenfranchised so many.
We have spent too much time negotiating limited rights — not just to abortion, but also to the ballot box and others — for the most privileged. That has to stop today. We urge Congress and the White House to think beyond the bare minimum of whether abortion is technically legal, and to instead ensure that abortion is accessible, no matter where we live or how much money we earn. We celebrate the U.S. House vote of the Women’s Health Protection Act to provide essential federal protections for expanding abortion access after decades of attacks on care at the state level. But we must go further, and there are clear steps we can take: We must pass the EACH Act to lift bans on insurance coverage of abortion, end unnecessary barriers to medication abortion care and ensure that whatever someone’s documentation status, they can get the care they need. More local policymakers must follow the lead of New York City, Austin and Portland, which in recent years have dedicated their own local funding to support people who need abortion care.
Imagine if we affirmed, for those 7 million Texans and their families and for the millions more under threat in this country, that every one of us should be able to live, work and make decisions about our futures with dignity and respect. Imagine if our policymakers recognized that racism, economic insecurity and immigration status multiply the already massive barriers to abortion care, and took proactive steps to launch real policy solutions that address the deep roots of these inequities. Imagine if we stopped trying to preserve a broken status quo, and instead built a new path to reproductive and economic freedom for all of us.
Imagine the people-power we could build if we stop saying, “Next time, next year, next session.” Imagine saying to millions of progressive voters: “The time to unapologetically live our values is now.” Imagine what we could do if we decide that abortion justice can’t wait.