On December 10, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to keep SB 8––a law that bans abortions after six weeks, or when a fetal heartbeat is detected––in place. The court issued two decisions. The first decision bars healthcare providers from suing the state attorney and the second states the Supreme Court will not prevent bounty-hunter lawsuits from being filed. Despite the legal loss, Sonia Sotomayor still championed and fought for women’s reproductive rights through her blistering dissent.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor said that the Supreme Court allowing Texas to continue SB 8 “betrays not only the citizens of Texas but also our constitutional system of government.” Coupled with the barriers that the law would impose on pregnant people, Sotomayor notes that the law authorizes any person, even those with no relationship to the pregnant person, to sue for a minimum of $10,000 in damages. This includes anyone who performs, assists, or has the intention of assisting an abortion.
“Those vulnerable to suit might include a medical provider, a receptionist, a friend who books an appointment, or a ride-share driver who takes a woman to a clinic,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Importantly, SB 8 also modifies state-court procedures to make litigation uniquely punitive for those sued. It allows defendants to be haled into court in any county in which a plaintiff lives, even if that county has no relationship to the defendants or the abortion procedure at issue.”
The Health Impact of SB 8
Since SB 8’s inception, the law has posed a burden on women’s reproductive health. Research conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that abortions declined by from 4,300 in September 2020 to nearly 2,200 in September 2021, after the law went into effect.
Moreover, the average one-way driving distance for Texans seeking to reach an abortion clinic increased from 17 miles to 247 miles, according to a report conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. This means that Texans now have to drive 14 times farther for care, which disproportionately impacts low-income people and communities of color. Prior to SB 8, the majority of patients obtaining abortions in Texas were in their 20s and 74% were Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.
The law not only increases the delay in which pregnant people receive care but also overwhelms state healthcare systems. Between October 22 and 29, Texans seeking abortion care traveled to non-adjacent states, such as Illinois, Washington, Ohio, and Maryland, to seek care. Many of these abortion clinics do not have the capacity to meet the demands and needs of Texans seeking abortion care, putting stress on those states’ health systems, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
But beyond the health repercussions lies a far deeper issue: SB defies federal law, notably Roe v. Wade. “My disagreement with the Court runs far deeper than a quibble over how many defendants these petitioners may sue. The dispute is over whether States may nullify federal constitutional rights by employing schemes like the one at hand,” wrote Sotomayor. She continued and said: “The Court indicates that they can, so long as they write their laws to more thoroughly disclaim all enforcement by state officials, including licensing officials. This choice to shrink from Texas’ challenge to federal supremacy will have far-reaching repercussions. I doubt the Court, let alone the country, is prepared for them.”
Abortions In Texas
Under SB 8, abortions under six weeks are still legal in Texas and it is legal to travel out of state to get an abortion. If you’re looking to locate a provider, you can locate an abortion clinic nearest you using Abortion Finder.
Additional resources, such as financial assistance for travel, funding abortion, childcare, and lodging, are available.
Statewide Resources from Abortion Finder
- Buckle Bunnies
- Buckle Bunnies abortion fund helps pay for abortions throughout Texas.
- Fund Texas Choice
- Fund Texas Choice works to provide lodging and transportation assistance for patients throughout Texas.
- Call: 1 (844) 900-8908
- Jane’s Due Process
- Jane’s Due Process works to give free legal help to minors who are pregnant. These services include judicial bypass assistance.
- Hotline call hours: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Hotline text hours: 8:00 A.M.-11:00 P.M., 7 days a week
- Call or text (English and español): 1 (866) 999-5263
- Mariposa Fund
- The Mariposa Fund assists undocumented abortion seekers in paying for the care they need.
- Call: (505) 242-7512
- Stigma Relief Fund
- The Stigma Relief Fund helps patients receiving care at Whole Woman’s Health locations pay for medical costs.
- S.Y.S. (Support Your Sistah)
- S.Y.S. provides childcare assistance, food, transportation, escorts to and from clinics, abortion and birthing doulas, and financial assistance.
- When calling, make sure to leave a voicemail with your full name, date of birth, ZIP code, and type of assistance needed.
- Hotline call hours: 8:00 A.M.-Noon, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
- Call: (469) 978-7710