Austin, Texas — Women's rights in Texas took another major hit Thursday (March 27th) as a panel of judges sitting on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, reaffirmed severe new limits on abortion that had been passed last July by Texas's extremist-right Legislature.
The new ruling threw out the decision of a lower-court judge based in Texas who concluded that the new restrictions "violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose", according to an Associated Press report aired on Austin's KXAN-TV News.
Representing some of the tightest abortion restrictions in the U.S., these newest laws — passed in last year's legislative session — require doctors performing abortions to possess admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and enforce severe limits on doctors prescribing pills to induce abortion. Predominantly Republican legislators that passed the measure claim that the new rules were just aimed at "protecting the health of the woman."
However, according to another March 27th Associated Press report,
...abortion-rights supporters called the measures an attempt to stop abortions in Texas through overregulation. Many abortion doctors do not have admitting privileges and limiting when and where they may prescribe abortion-inducing pills discourages women from choosing that option, they say.
The Texas Tribune (March 27th) reports that, since this past November, at least a dozen abortion clinics in Beaumont, South Texas, and the Texas Panhandle have been forced to shut their doors "as a result of the new abortion regulations."
In August, before the rules took effect, there were 40 licensed abortion providers in Texas. Now there are 28 licensed abortion providers, only 24 of which still perform the procedure.
The Texas law and supportive judicial ruling fit a pattern of relentless nationwide attack on women's rights, particularly impacting workingclass and lower-income women. As the liberal website ThinkProgress reports (March 27th),.
Forty two percent of the U.S. women who seek abortions are living in poverty, and typically don’t have the money for childcare, transportation, or time off work to make a long trip to a facility located hundreds of miles away. Researchers in Texas have estimated that the new state law will result in 22,000 impoverished Texas women denied access to abortion care this year.
And even more Texas abortion facilities are expected to close this coming September, as further mandates of the new legislation take effect.
"Texas women deserve better than to have extremist politicians endanger their health and safety by preventing them from accessing safe and legal abortion..." complained Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, quoted by the Texas Tribune. "The law is having a devastating impact on women in Texas..." she warned.
In a statement also quoted by Texas Tribune, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, vowed that "We will combat these laws in the courts, and our separate political arm will mobilize voters to replace lawmakers who champion these dangerous laws in the first place."
But in the view of at least one major group on the radical left, this strategy of depending on courts and the Democratic Party — institutions virtually owned by the USA's wealthy elite — has actually disarmed women's rights activists and helped open the floodgates of repression and attacks against women's rights to abortion and other health services.
"The legalization of abortion 40 years ago was the product of the tumultuous struggles of the 1960s, especially the fight for black equality and the Vietnam antiwar movement, which were catalysts for the women’s rights movement of that era..." warned Workers Vanguard, published by the U.S. Spartacist League, in a 2013 article on abortion rights.
While America's powerful ruling class, "In the face of class and social struggle ... may cede some reforms..." argues the paper, the working class must "wrest power and the wealth of society" from that ruling elite "...to ensure those gains are not undone...."
What this implies, according to the Spartacists, was clarified in an earlier 2005 article, which asserted that
The fight for abortion rights mandates that we build a revolutionary workers party, waging a political struggle to break working people from the Democratic Party. The working class has the social power necessary to mobilize in defense of not only women, but all the oppressed.
That perspective seems to reverberate with similar calls by other activists on the left advocating greater militancy and more pushback not only from the women's rights movement, but also from the majority of workers, immigrants, minorities, and other sections of today's society finding themselves under increasing attack.