A new Texas law has made abortion almost completely illegal in Texas. Vice President Harris is sitting down with abortion providers and patients to talk about how to fight for abortion rights.
It was around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 31, at the Houston Planned Parenthood Center, and Bhavik Kumar, M.D., was getting nervous. There were still 20 or 30 patients left in the waiting room, each waiting to see if they would receive basic, life-changing medical care: an abortion.
When the clock struck midnight that evening, Texas Senate Bill Eight went into effect, making it illegal to provide almost all abortions past six weeks of pregnancy. What that “six weeks” figure really means is just two weeks after a missed period—when most women do not even know that they are pregnant. We’ve been hearing about six-week abortion bans and “heartbeat bills” for years, but this will be the first time such a law has gone into effect, after the Trump-appointed Supreme Court voted not to intercede and block the law. In Texas, that means Roe v. Wade—the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a constitutional right—simply doesn’t apply in Texas.
The law—which makes no exceptions for rape and incest—won’t just stop women from accessing health care and making their own decisions. It will also allow any person to sue an abortion provider like Kumar (or even any people who “aid and abet” someone seeking an abortion) for $10,000. Historians have noted that this harkens back to the fugitive slave laws of the 19th century, which offered cash incentives to white Americans to turn in their Black neighbors to slave catchers.
That Tuesday, Kumar was able to provide abortions for all 60 of his patients—more than any other day in his career. The next day, with the ban in effect, only six patients came in for appointments. Under the new law, half did not qualify to receive an abortion. “People were in such a state of shock,” Kumar says. Before SB8 went into effect, when abortions were allowed up to 21 weeks, Kumar might see two or three patients in a year who would not legally qualify for the procedure.
“We need bold action to protect access to abortion,” Kumar told Glamour. “There’s no time to wait. People’s lives are literally at stake here.”
On Thursday, Kumar and a group of abortion providers, activists, and patients will have a chance to communicate this urgent message to the White House. Vice President Kamala Harris will sit down with providers and patients from Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and New Mexico to hear about the situation on the ground.
“We will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions,” the vice president said in a statement last week. “We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients. We will use every lever of our administration to defend the right to safe and legal abortion—and to strengthen that right.”
The need for the Biden-Harris administration to back up these words is desperate. Kumar and other Texas abortion providers are already counseling women who are more than six weeks pregnant to leave the state to seek abortions—an expensive, difficult ordeal, especially for those who need childcare. But now that the Supreme Court has allowed the Texas law to take effect, experts expect many other states to follow up with their own copycat laws. Abortion was already highly restricted and inaccessible in many states. Now, in huge parts of the country, getting an abortion may simply become impossible.
Rohini Kosoglu, domestic policy advisor to the vice president, who spoke to Glamour for this article, emphasized that the Biden-Harris administration is taking an urgent approach. “Where we find ourselves with the Texas senate bill is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional right under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for 50 years,” she said.
During the vice president’s meeting with the abortion groups, “[Harris will] reiterate the administration’s commitment to using every possible tool of government to combat these laws, including federal legislation to codify Roe,” Kosoglu said. That means that the White House could push Congress to make safe access to abortion a federal law, not just a Supreme Court precedent. The White House official also noted that the Justice Department is working to determine how to protect abortion providers and others from a law that will place an actual bounty on them.
“This administration overall is committed to ensuring that every American has access to health care, including reproductive health care, full stop,” Kosoglu said. “We are working hand in glove with the Department of Health and Human Services and the other agencies across this administration to ensure that they’re using any federal lever that they can to help protect these women.”
That help is badly needed. Those who overwhelmingly won’t have the resources to evade the Texas ban by leaving the state, Kumar notes, are low-income workers, people of color, people living in rural areas, and very young girls. “Think about someone who’s 12 or 13 years old trying to navigate accessing abortion and having to travel hundreds of miles and access that care,” says Kumar. “It is near impossible for them to do so, and those are the folks that bear the burden of a law that is so harsh and restrictive.
“I have to point out that banning abortion does not stop people from needing abortions,” Kumar adds. “The number of folks that needed abortion before the Senate Bill went into effect remains the same.”
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast