After attempts to block it in the Supreme Court failed, the strictest anti-abortion law in the US went into effect on 1 September 2021.
The Texas law, which bans all abortion after around six weeks, relies on intimidation to ensure it is implemented. It allows any private citizen to sue anyone deemed to have helped a woman get an abortion. Campaigners rightly fear this will empower anti-choice reactionaries to bring harassing lawsuits, paralysing the few abortion clinics still open, in the state.
The law is likely to embolden anti-choice moves in other US states. Other states have passed similar laws, but those measures face legal challenges. The Texas law is the first to be implemented.
For example Mississippi state officials have asked the conservative-majority Supreme Court to overrule Roe vs Wade the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and thus enable the state to implement a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
If Roe vs Wade is overturned or weakened abortion rights in the US will only be protected (enshrined in state law) in 14 out of the 50 states. Indeed in 22 states laws restricting abortion have already been passed and could be fully implemented. In those states it is already very difficult to obtain an abortion. Those 22 states represent a huge proportion of the land mass of the USA.
The US Justice Department said that it will not tolerate violence against anyone seeking abortion services in Texas and that federal officials are exploring all options to challenge this effective ban on almost all terminations.
Given the situation in the US, and a much wider terrifying problem of global attacks on reproductive rights, we cannot rely on legal challenges and the US state department. We need to build a militant pro-choice movement world-wide.
To encourage reporting under the new law, Texas Right to Life has established a digital tipline. “Any Texan can bring a lawsuit against an abortionist or someone aiding and abetting an abortion after six weeks,” the website reads, and those proved to be violating the law can be fined a minimum of $10,000. An online form allows anyone to submit an anonymous “report” of someone illegally aiding an abortion, including a section where images can be uploaded for proof.
Pro-choice users on TikTok and Reddit launched an online effort to thwart the law, flooding this tip-website with false reports, Shrek memes and porn. The site, launched a month ago, has crashed several times as a result. One TikTok user said they had submitted 742 fake reports of the governor, Greg Abbott, getting illegal abortions. Others have been writing programs to allow users to mass upload reports.
Our international campaign, must take to the streets, and extend the immediate battle in the US to many other threats to reproductive rights around the world.
Map showing threat in the US: maps.reproductiverights.org/what-if-roe-fell