The Texans Fighting for Abortion Access

Listen to this episode

S1: Texas took the Dauntless step last week to enact a strange and almost absolute abortion ban. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in a five to four vote not to intervene. And when that happened, a bunch of liberals I know said, that’s it. Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land. A kind of talk is understandable and I guess technically correct. But from the perspective of abortion care activists in Texas, it’s also kind of counterproductive


S2: if it’s meant to make people think that abortion is illegal everywhere, not just in Texas

S1: on a Rupani works for Fund Texas Choice and Abortion Support Group. She has come to resent the way the new Texas law is discussed,

S2: the way it’s being talked

S3: about.

S2: People think that they’re going to get in trouble for getting an abortion. When that’s not the case, the people that would get in trouble would be folks like myself and the clinicians and the providers and the abortion funds and potentially anyone else in between.

S1: The in-between part is what’s so novel about this new abortion law. Texas now bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, but it also allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps or intends to help someone else get an abortion in the state. Complainants whose lawsuits are successful would get $10000 from the person they’re hauling to court under the law.


S2: It’s written so vaguely that it scares people to even donate. It scares


S3: people to

S2: like, do rideshares.

S1: Being scared is rational. Texas clinics have reported an uptick in surveillance outside their buildings. People in the parking lot taking pictures, jotting things down. A couple of weeks ago, an anti-abortion group called Texas Right to Life began soliciting tips from people people quote on the sidewalks at the abortion.

S2: Mills submit information with as many details as possible. You can stop abortion by protecting women and children from unsafe criminal abortions.

S1: Abortion clinics in Texas saw a surge in patients last week. People rushing in to get their procedures before they became illegal. Honor’s group was swamped, too. She says the caseload at Fund Texas choice more than doubled.


S2: We’ve been contacting clinics kind of all over the nation, not just kind of here in our region, not in just Texas, because, you know, there’s clinics that we don’t always work with. That may not know if it exists or fund Texas choice exists, but we want them to know it does.

S3: And so if they get a

S2: Texas patient, they can make sure to send them our way.

S1: Because you anticipate a lot more people from Texas will be leaving the state to obtain abortions.

S2: Yeah, based on a survey, 98 percent of the clients we’ve worked

S3: at would not

S2: gotten a procedure in Texas if this law were to have been in effect before


S1: today on the show. The view from Texas, where the deck was already stacked against anyone seeking an abortion. Now there are hardly any more cards left to play Mary Wilson. I’m filling in for Mary Harris. This is what next? Keep listening. On a Rupani worked as a lawyer for several years before entering the abortion rights realm, she started her job at Fund Texas Choice at an inauspicious time, right as the Supreme Court’s conservative majority was being solidified.


S2: My final interview was the day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg I. So it was it was tough. It was like a decision, do I go this route knowing what’s ultimately going to happen? So yeah, I interviewed for a position knowing what was coming.


S1: One thing to know about Honor’s organization is it doesn’t provide abortions. It helps people deal with the costs and hurdles around getting one.

S2: The work that we do

S3: is it’s often

S2: referred to as a silent backbone of abortion work. And what we call ourselves are patient navigators. And so, you know, if someone can’t afford their abortion, they can’t get to their abortion. So we do everything kind of we try to help the

S3: individual with everything

S2: in between from booking

S3: their they’ve booked their appointment.

S2: And then what’s next, basically to get to their appointment and then how do they come back?


S3: So we will book their

S2: travel, we will books, their lodging, will help them get food and we will help them with writers to and from the airport.

S1: The lodging and the rideshares can be the difference between someone getting the procedure they want or not. Because in Texas, even before this latest ban was on the books, there was a long list of obstacles to abortion care.

S3: One of the biggest barriers

S2: is the waiting period, and there’s a mandatory 24 hour waiting period between the sonogram and the procedure unless you live over 100 miles away from the clinic.

S3: And so, you know the distance

S2: Ray Texans is so great in size, but there aren’t a lot of clinics everywhere inside. So a lot of our clients have to travel


S3: hundreds

S2: of miles

S3: each way, or they have to

S2: leave the state. So our clients in West Texas tend to go to New Mexico because that’s closer than going to a clinic and taxes.

S3: And then there’s a whole

S2: nother layer of crisis pregnancy centers that exist who tout themselves as they’re going to help you figure it

S3: out and

S2: they’re going to

S3: help you get the care

S2: that you need to make the best

S3: decision you want to make. But they’re

S2: anti-choice. They don’t have any laws restricting the kind of information they give.

S3: And so

S2: sometimes they will lie to the client and say or lie to the patient and say,


S3: you’re only four weeks

S2: along or five weeks along, even though they’re eight

S3: to 10 weeks along. And we’ve seen

S2: clients come

S3: to us like 17

S2: weeks along that they thought they were 12 weeks long and had more time to get to the clinic. But they don’t. And the the other side of it all is there are a limited amount of clinics and so they get full. The clinics get full. Yeah, the clinics get full and then the clients can’t

S3: get in within a certain time or only

S2: have so much availability, and the clinic’s availability may not match up.

S1: So before this new band near ban went into effect in Texas, the cutoff for getting an abortion in that state was was at the 20 week mark. Under the new law, it’s at six weeks. Can you explain for people who don’t have a uterus? Why that makes it really difficult to obtain an abortion legally?


S3: Yeah, I mean,

S2: that’s two weeks after a missed period

S3: and that most

S2: folks don’t know they’ve missed their period until it’s literally two weeks later. And so at that point, you realize you’ve missed your period and you do a pregnancy test and realize you’re pregnant by the time you get into a clinic, which again, wait times can be very significant. You’re well beyond the six week mark. And that’s

S3: why he said ninety eight

S2: percent of our clients would not have been able to access an abortion in Texas had this love in effect

S3: before,

S2: because a lot of our clients are eight weeks and beyond.


S3: And so you’re

S2: taking away 14 weeks of ability to access

S1: the abortion that used to be allowed in Texas.

S2: Yeah, but the way Texas

S3: wrote it is

S2: so unprecedented.

S3: And even the Supreme Court

S2: decisions refer to that that the way Texas has written this law is so unprecedented because they’re trying to bypass judicial scrutiny

S3: by the state,

S2: not enforcing it, but allowing other citizens to enforce it. And so basically deputizing everyone.

S1: Yeah. The Supreme Court weighed in on this ban in the middle of the week, about 24 hours after it went into effect. The conservative majority declined to block the law from going into effect, but Chief Justice Roberts dissented, and he said that the Texas law is not only unusual but unprecedented, that it essentially delegated enforcement of the law to the populace at large. And that quote, the desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime. I’m not a lawyer. Can you untangle a little bit what this tussle is over over? You’re trying to escape judicial scrutiny by pushing off the responsibility for enforcing this law onto private citizens?


S2: So, you know, Roe v. Wade established the floor

S3: in terms of who gets

S2: access

S3: to abortion and at least

S2: what the floor should be

S3: and the floor was,

S2: the state cannot get involved in a person’s decision. In the first trimester, you have at least the first

S3: trimester, and so the state cannot be involved

S2: in a person’s decision on what they do with their pregnancy in the first 12 weeks. And so six weeks is obviously violative of that, right? But that’s technically unconstitutional.

S1: But the state is not technically involved here.

S2: Exactly. So the state

S3: isn’t the one acting and

S2: so. But by saying the state isn’t going to act,

S3: they’re trying to avoid

S2: being scrutinized as saying, Well, it’s technically not unconstitutional because the state isn’t doing anything.

S1: So is your organization worried about getting sued?

S2: That is something that’s crossed our minds multiple times

S3: in multiple

S2: months

S3: of this year, even before the

S2: law was passed.

S1: What do you mean? Why do you say that?

S2: I mean, we all, you know, we collectively watch what’s happening in the Legislature, right? And so we’re reading all of the anti-abortion laws that are going through the Legislature. And we saw this law and we’re shocked, shocked that something like we were like. This is terrible.

S3: This is ridiculous.

S2: No, no, what about and who?

S3: It’s passed and it’s here. So this is

S2: something we’ve thought about for

S3: a long time, but there’s a

S2: possibility of us getting sued.

S1: And it’s not just sued one time. It’s like, who knows how many lawsuits?


S2: Yeah. And I think

S3: that’s why Texans orgs

S2: collectively have been saying, this is not OK and folks are willing to just like willing to do what they can. I’m not going to say, folks are folks are going to abide by the law, right? We’re all going to comply.

S3: And if someone is beyond,

S2: if someone has cardiac embryonic fetal activity, we won’t be helping them get to an abortion in Texans, right?

S1: Did it require some sort of discussion to come to that conclusion? Yeah. Hey, guys, we’re all complying with this thing. We’re not going to try to dodge it.

S2: I don’t know if it required a discussion as much as. Hey, we need to do everything we can to be in existence, and if we if we don’t comply with this law, then we will definitively be sued. Right. So I don’t know if there wasn’t as much of a discussion as it was. Hey, we know this is here. We want to continue to help Texans. So let’s comply with the law so we can continue to do that instead of be shut down

S1: more with honor Rupani. After the break. I keep thinking about people who are our patients that you’re helping at fund Texas choice who were really close to a cutoff point. Maybe they had a procedure scheduled and then they hit up against the threshold beyond which they can’t get an abortion. And now all of a sudden, it’s illegal because the new ban went into effect. Are you working with someone like that or many people like that? Do you know how those people are coping?

S2: Yeah. I mean, I will say the frantic ness that we felt in the last couple of weeks with our clients has been huge. And clinics had started seeing more patients and they’d increase the amount of folks they were seeing. And so on


S3: average, we would

S2: like. Our program coordinator says these like six to 10 clients a week, and she was seeing 20 plus a week in the weeks leading up to September 1st.

S3: So much so that

S2: Monday and Tuesday she worked with 14 clients alone

S3: of this week.

S2: And even though, like all of us, usually do a cut off and set our boundaries of like, I can only serve so many people because

S3: of their work and time it takes,

S2: every one of us just kind of said, Let’s let’s do what we can, how much we can’t, if we can’t, that’s absolutely understandable.

S3: And everyone else is like,

S2: No, we’re giving until we absolutely on Tuesday until Tuesday night.

S3: But I mean, I think

S2: the reality is, as we’ve been talking about what’s going to happen, we can talk more about how to prepare for it. But all of us, we’re like, we’re not going to entirely know what it’s going to look like until we start doing the work post-Sept. or post nine one. This is not something I say lightly. Many folks be forced to carry their part and this deter many folks will have to do it

S3: because they

S2: cannot make those. They cannot make those trips that cannot do due the long distance, unfortunately. And so

S3: there is a lot of it is

S2: very hard because they have to cope with the fact that they may never be able to make that

S3: trip

S2: and be forced to

S3: carry the pregnancy to

S2: term or take matters into their own hands.

S1: I’ve read this everywhere that the new Texas law does not penalize people getting abortions, but when I hear you to listen to you, describe the obstacles it puts in place, it may as well be a penalty.


S2: It does feel like that. Yes, the laser unnecessarily restrictive, unnecessarily overburdening. And so it probably does feel like that. And I’m not going to minimize that. I would feel the same way. The reason I keep trying to say that it that it doesn’t penalize clients is because I want them to hear that organizations like Fun Texans

S3: choice chains due

S2: process. From there, I find

S3: a fear center to find relief fund West Fund,

S2: the Bridge Collective Clinic Access Support

S3: Network, these

S2: organizations that are

S3: doing the grassroots work

S2: on the ground. Are there for you like we want to make this journey a little less difficult?

S1: You said this law is meant to confuse people because the way it’s being talked about, people think that they will be charged or or somehow, you know, put in a dragnet because they’ve obtained an abortion. And the reality is that it. It puts people like you on the hook. But I’m thinking about like the downstream effects and thinking how many clinics will stay open? How many people will go to work at providers or how many people will go to work for fun Texas choice and groups like it. If they could get sued for up to $10000? I mean, are you playing out those kinds of scenarios?

S2: I think everyone’s been playing endless scenarios and I think everyone’s

S3: doing it

S2: collectively. I think folks are talking and deciding what this means and how

S3: this could impact the

S2: organization. I think AP Texans Choice has been preparing for this for the last several months. I think other organizations have been preparing for this.

S1: How do you prepare for the possibility of like a war of attrition like this, you know, death by a million lawsuits?


S2: You can’t. I think you mentally

S3: are preparing for the

S2: onslaught and

S3: you’re trying to make sure

S2: there’s money there to

S3: do it. And that’s why

S2: donations and fundraising are so important. And that’s why I encourage everyone to donate to the nine Texans abortion funds that I’ve been talking about nonstop for the last several days because we’re on the ground doing the work. And I and the thing is is we’re autonomous organizations and you’re

S3: right, like the

S2: point of this is to make us not be in existence. But I think the will

S3: of the people

S2: is stronger. And I think the will of Texans, who continue to just show up for a Texans is greater. And I think that there’s a way that we can survive.

S1: You sound like you’re picturing something in your mind when you say that when you say Texans will help other Texans.

S2: It’s not something I’m picturing, it’s something I’ve seen, right?

S3: One Texans choice

S2: was created

S3: because another

S2: law targeted clinics

S3: in

S2: 2013 called Hospital two, and it basically shuttered. More than 50 percent of the clinics immediately and. We were founded because Texans stepped out for

S3: Texans and we all stepped

S2: in for each other and the outpour of donations and love and support that we have all seen convinces me that Texans are here for Texans and they will support them. And I don’t just mean Texans that are in Texans. I mean Texans that were here and left and still support the cause and are angry and frustrated that their home state is doing the things it’s doing.


S1: On a Rupani, thank you so much.

S2: Thank you for having us

S1: on a Rupani is the Co-Executive director of Fund Texas Choice. Now that the Texas band has taken effect, fund Texas Choice plans to help patients obtain abortions outside of Texas if their pregnancies have progressed past that six week mark. ANA believes the strategy is legal, but says she’s aware it will be scrutinized by anti-abortion advocates. That’s the show. What next is produced by the best in the business? Elaina Schwartz, Davis Land, Danielle Hewitt and Carmel Delshad, Alison Benedict and Alicia Montgomery do the deputizing around here. I’m Mary Wilson filling in for Mary Harris. Thank you for listening.