How Women's Rights Orgs Plan To Fight the Texas Abortion Bill

Organizations will consider legal challenges and voter drives.

July 15, 2013, 4:21 PM

July 15, 2013— -- Texas passed sweeping abortion regulations late Friday night and the Republican lawmakers who championed the bill have declared victory. But opponents of the law who say it hurts women are angry and ready for a fight.

"It's part of a nationwide effort," Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said, "to outlaw abortion."

The new law will ban abortions except in rare circumstances after 20 weeks and require clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical care centers. It also requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The bill's author, Sen. Glenn Hegar, said repeatedly during floor debates that he was just trying to protect women, but organizations like Planned Parenthood have said he's actually hurting them by taking away access to everything from birth control to sex education, both of which are offered at clinics that perform these procedures.

The reality is that abortions pose very few medical or mental health risks to women.

Only about 0.3 percent of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization, according to the Guttmacher Institute. There are virtually no risks of infertility or miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies, and links to breast cancer are flat-out wrong.

Now opponents like the ACLU says they're debating how to proceed.

One possibility is a legal challenge.

"We'll certainly be looking at that very closely in the days and weeks ahead," Dalven said, "but it's too early for me to say anything more than that."

They may also target certain provisions instead of going after the whole law.

Women's rights organizations have successfully taken on abortion restrictions in Georgia, Arizona and other states to court, but legal challenges are expensive and time consuming.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement that the organization's lawyers are "evaluating litigation options," and that they would "take appropriate steps to prevent these provisions from taking effect and endangering the health of women in Texas."

Critics of the Texas law worry that clinics who cannot afford to comply with the new requirements will have to shutter their doors. That will mean not only fewer abortions, but fewer cancer screenings and STD testing. It could also send women south of the border to Mexico for illicit abortion pills that can have dangerous consequences.

Clinics that perform abortions have 90 days from the end of the legislative session to comply with the 20-week ban and things like the hospital-admitting privileges. The session is scheduled to end on July 31, so those restrictions are set to take effect in the fall.

The clinics have until the fall of next year to comply with the facilities regulations - things like wider hallways and mandatory waiting rooms.

Another way to fight the law is voter drives.

Planned Parenthood has already said it will launch campaigns to vote supporters of such laws out of office.

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president, spoke at a Sex, Politics, and Cocktails event in Washington, D.C. last week, where she called on her volunteers to help vote the bill's supporters out of office.

That will take time, but she said she was encouraged by the number of young women spurred to action by the vote in Texas.

"You might not see us crowding your corridors and objecting from the balconies, but make no mistake, we are still here," Richards wrote in an email to donors. "We are in Texas, in North Carolina, in Ohio, and every place a small group of politicians tries to turn back the hands of time on women and rights."