On September 1, the country’s most restrictive abortion restriction went into effect in Texas. SB8 not only bans abortion after six weeks, but also leaves enforcement up to private citizens. Abortion providers, along with anyone else deemed to have aided the person obtaining an abortion—including clinic staff and even rideshare drivers—can be sued in civil court by civilian vigilantes and face fines of $10,000 or more. Late last night, the Supreme Court declined to block the law in a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice Roberts joining justices in their dissent. With the law in effect, the vast majority of abortion services—up to 90 percent— are currently prohibited in Texas.

In response, The Century Foundation’s (TCF) health care experts released the following statements:

Dr. Jamila Taylor, TCF director of health care reform and senior fellow:

“This latest appalling attack on abortion access, and the Court’s decision not to intervene, is putting the health and lives of Texan women and birthing people at risk. We know that Black women and other people of color will bear the brunt of this unconstitutional law—a pattern we have seen too many times before. Abortion bans serve to exacerbate the inequities in health care access and outcomes that Black women in particular face due to structural racism, discrimination, and a legacy of reproductive oppression. SB8 is an escalation of the ongoing assault on women and pregnant persons’ bodily autonomy, and will have reverberating effects outside of Texas as other states follow suit. It has long been clear that Roe is not enough to guarantee access to abortion. SB8, however, demonstrates we may not even have that precedent to rely on. It is imperative that Congress pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to safeguard access to abortion and protect women and pregnant people from these politically-motivated attacks on their access to basic health care.”

Anna Bernstein, TCF health care policy fellow:

“This blatantly unconstitutional law, which the Supreme Court has allowed to remain in effect without so much as oral arguments, is already having a chilling effect in Texas. Like any abortion restriction, this law will fall hardest on people of color and those struggling to make ends meet who cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles out of state to receive care. Abortion is health care and should be available to every person, regardless of zip code. Now more than ever, we need Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) to create a protected right to abortion. For many women and pregnant people, abortion access has long been a right in name only, as care has been made increasingly inaccessible by restrictive and medically unnecessary laws. Texas is the first state to take this extreme approach, but will not be the last. Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration must make their support of abortion access clear and pass WHPA.”

Read recent research and analysis from our health care team, including written testimony on the importance of the Women’s Health Protection Act, an explainer on how abortion remains an essential part of health care, and a commentary on why lifting abortion coverage restrictions is more necessary than ever during the pandemic.

header photo: Protesters hold up signs and cheer at a protest outside the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas. source: Sergio Flores/Getty Images