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Health & Science

42 Years After Roe v. Wade, States Like Texas Chip Away At Decision

This week marks the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion. But advocates warn that Roe is under attack like never before, including in Texas and the new Republican-dominated Congress. But their opponents say the Roe anniversary is a reminder to keep up the fight against it.


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In Texas, abortion rights advocates are anxiously waiting for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to rule on a key part of the 2013 abortion law.

A three-judge panel heard arguments on January 7 over regulations requiring Texas clinics that provide abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers. If upheld, the law could force ten more clinics to close, because they can’t afford the necessary upgrades.  

Opposing Abortion Map
Click to enlarge. Source: Guttmacher Institute

But advocates say that while Texas is a leading state in passing such laws, it’s not just Texas.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented wave of restrictions that have been rolling across the country,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that supports reproductive rights.

In the years since the 2010 elections, states have passed a total of 231 new laws restricting abortion.

Nash said 27 states — including Texas — are now considered “hostile” to abortion rights. That’s up from 13 in 2000.

In the meantime, the new Congress quickly introduced new bills to restrict abortion, including one to ban them nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Nash says a few states have managed to push back against new restrictions, but she expects the overall trend to continue. Some state legislators may even try to double down on existing laws, she warned.

“Because so many laws have been enacted over the past few years, it looks like there are states that are going back into existing abortion restrictions to try to make them more burdensome,” Nash said.

For example, a state that now requires a 24-hour waiting period between mandatory counseling and the abortion procedure might extend that to 48 or even 72 hours.

A Wave Of Restrictions Graph
Click to enlarge. Source: Guttmacher Institute

“These waits can increase cost by extending the amount of time women have to take off work or the cost of travel,” Nash said.

In Texas, the Roe anniversary is also a significant date for anti-abortion groups, but more as a reminder to keep working for more restrictions.

“Here in Texas, we’ve had a lot of great success passing different pro-life measures that protect both the mother and the unborn child,” said Emily Horne, a legislative associate with Texas Right to Life.

“But Texas is a very large state and we still lose tens of thousands of lives every year to Roe v. Wade,” she said.  

Horne says her group has more ideas for pro-life bills for the new legislative session in Austin, but she said it was too soon to talk about specifics yet.

Some bills will address abortion, Horne said, while others will focus on the medical care, or withholding of care, provided in “end-of-life” situations. Horne says her organization prefers the term “denial of treatment” because the patients she is concerned about are not always facing terminal illness.




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