Gov. Rick Perry petulantly called another special session to pass a massive anti-abortion bill, basically giving up any pretense of using the special sessions for what they were created for, emergencies. Obviously, the hope is that by returning to the same well over and over again, Texas Republicans can just wear out pro-choicers and get this massive bill, which will shut down 37 out of 42 abortion clinics in the state, passed. But what do we say to death (of our pro-choice dreams)? Not today. The crowds at the Capitol Building look huge:
There’s very little chance that Republicans won’t get away with this, though it’s so obviously and aggressively not about “women’s health” as they claim that I expect it will get tied up in court pretty quickly. Multiple politicians, including Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, have openly stated that this is about stopping safe, legal abortion in the state, and have barely even glanced by the new anti-choice strategy of pretending that ever-increasing regulations on clinics have anything to do with making abortion safer. (I never understood how we’re supposed to really believe that anti-choicers sincerely want to make abortion safer anyway. They claim to believe it’s murder. What kind of person wants to make it safer for a murderer to murder? They are just so full of shit.) The fact of the matter is requiring abortion clinics to be run like they’re hospitals makes abortion less safe by making it unavailable. Texas is, as someone who is from there, exactly the sort of place where a black market will rise up the second legally available abortion disappears. This is extremely dangerous.
To drive home how serious this bill is, Laura Clawson at Daily Kos put together a gif to show how this will affect abortion clinics.
I grew up in the West part of the state, so I can tell you just by eyeballing this what it all means. If you live in El Paso, that means you’d have to drive 8 hours to the nearest abortion clinic in the state. (They’ll probably just go to New Mexico instead, even though they also have very few clinics.) If you live in Lubbock, it’s about a six hour drive. Now, remember that there’s a 24-hour waiting period for abortion in the state, which means that if you live in West Texas and you go to say, San Antonio, you need a day to drive there, a day for the first meeting with the doctor, another day for the abortion, and another day to drive home. So that’s four nights in a hotel. The cheapest I found was for about $60 a night.
Adding it up, therefore, the cost of getting an abortion if you live in West Texas and have to drive to San Antonio:
Hotel: $300, with taxes and fees
Transportation: $150, based on a car that gets 25/mpg and current gas prices
Food: If you’re frugal, about $60
That comes in around $1,010. Based on the median pay of an American worker, that’s 1 and a half weeks of work, not counting the four days lost wages. However, women who get abortions are more likely to be low income, so it’s probably a much bigger chunk of their budget.
And that’s for the lucky ones. These clinics are probably going to get overloaded, for one thing. For another, a lot of women are going to look at that price tag and start looking on the black market. Let’s be clear: In Texas, that’s going to be a huge temptation. In Mexico, it’s already common for people to use an over-the-counter ulcer medication that is known to induce miscarriage. That knowledge is spreading quickly across Texas, and women are opting for that instead. Which makes perfect sense, and probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, safety-wise, but it still makes me uneasy. For one thing, Cytotec isn’t the same thing as RU-486. It doesn’t terminate the pregnancy before expelling it, like RU-486, making the whole process more fraught. Second of all, it’s hard to tell what the right dose, etc. is. Women are just going to wing it, because the alternative is that $1,000 bill they can’t afford.
One thing that won’t happen is anti-choice fantasies of happy mothers gratefully thanking Rick Perry for forcing childbirth on them. That didn’t happen when his cuts to family planning caused the unwanted child-bearing rate to go up, and it won’t happen now. This will just cause suffering and pain, and hurt Texas women and their families.