Beyond Abortion, Texas GOP Quietly Rolled Back Other Rights on September 1

While the big news from Texas this week was about the Supreme Court upholding the state’s ban on essentially all abortions in the state, a number of other restrictive laws that advance a far right Republican agenda also went into effect the same day.

A total of 666 new laws were rolled out on Wednesday. Many of them, if they had been implemented individually, would have raised the alarm for Democrats and progressives. One law, for instance, criminalizes homelessness by disallowing people without homes from camping in a public location, making the act a misdemeanor with a $500 fine. Another law will make it illegal for people to hire workers for sex, which critics say will only exacerbate dangerous conditions for sex workers.

Many of the laws that went into effect on September 1 were a direct backlash against the Movement for Black Lives that gained momentum across the country over the past year, along with the general movement for racial justice. One bill will create financial penalties for medium to large municipalities that decline their police departments’ budgets yearly.

Another bill that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June bans the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools. The scholarly theory, deliberately misinterpreted and politicized by the GOP, is not taught in grade schools. However, the intent of the law is to discourage educators from teaching American history without a white supremacist lens or talking about race in school. It bars teachers from giving “deference” to either side of a conflict while teaching about historical events.

One bill, which again appears to be a backlash against last year’s mass uprisings for racial justice, makes it a felony for protesters to block a road while protesting. This will lead to harsher penalties for left-wing protesters who already face disproportionate punishment and violence from police when they demonstrate.

A law that bans establishments from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine before entry also went into effect on Wednesday after having been signed by Abbott earlier this year. The punishment for requiring vaccinations is especially harsh on businesses: a business could be denied state contracts or even lose their license if they are found requiring customers to be vaccinated.

And then, of course, Texas also implemented a law that essentially overturns Roe v. Wade in the state, outlawing abortions at a point so early in the pregnancy that most people don’t even realize that they are pregnant. It will do untold damage to the millions of people in the state that it affects — especially low-income people who don’t have the wherewithal to go out of state to seek abortion care

Texas Republicans are working on yet more restrictive laws to come, many of them advancing a radical authoritarian agenda.

Abbott called the current special legislative session just so Republicans could pass a number of radical bills that the legislature wasn’t able to pass during the regular session. One is a bill aimed at making it harder for non-white people and people with disabilities to vote. The legislature passed the bill Tuesday, and Abbott has pledged to sign it.

Unsatisfied with just one bill scaring teachers from talking about race in schools, Republican legislators in the special session are advancing yet another supposed critical race theory bill that would remove required civil rights teachings from the curriculum, including writings from Martin Luther King, Jr. and lessons about slavery, white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan being “morally wrong.”

Republicans are also hoping to pass a slate of hateful anti-trans bills that would limit health care access for transgender youth, bar them from participating in sports, and more. The Texas GOP is following a wave of anti-trans laws being passed by Republicans across the country.