Commentary: What the Texas Abortion Bill Means to Black Women

The recent passing of this legislation will have devastating consequences for us. 

Posted: 07/10/2013 11:41 AM EDT

The war on women’s reproductive health has just upped its ante.

Just two weeks after Texas State Senator Wendy Davis stood in front of her colleagues for 13 hours — with no bathroom breaks — blocking the passing of a controversial anti-abortion bill in her state, the Texas House of Representatives passed a controversial anti-abortion bill anyway in a 98-49 vote.

House Bill 2 outlaws abortions past 20 weeks, but what this devastating bill also does is lay down stricter regulations for reproductive health clinics, basically shutting down 37 of 42 clinics throughout the state, the Washington Post wrote. This move will make all abortions and pregnancy prevention methods such as Plan B and birth control harder to access. Even worse: The House rejected an amendment that would make victims of rape and incest exempt from these restrictions.

It’s expected that the bill will pass in the Republican-led state Senate later this week to be signed by Gov. Rick Perry sometime this month, the New York Times reported.

While supporters of the bill claim these restrictions will make abortions safer for women by placing “more stringent conditions” for the procedure, medical organizations such as the Texas District of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that this bill “imposes requirements on doctors and facilities providing abortions that are unnecessary and unsupported by scientific evidence" and have no "basis in public health or safety,” Media Matters reports.

But it is women, especially Black women and low-income women, who pay the price.

It’s a well known fact that Black women have the highest unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates in the U.S. Overall, Black women account for 23 percent of all abortions in the state — third to white women and Latinas. But among Black teens, the highest national rates are in Texas, says a 2013 Guttmacher report. For every 1,000 pregnancies, there are 78 abortions among Black youth, topping all other ethnicities in that state. 

And so if the goal is to bring those numbers down, it doesn’t make sense to then close down clinics that can reduce unplanned pregnancies in our community. Not to mention, these clinics, which will be closed down, also screen for cancer and educate our community about STDs and HIV/AIDS.  

And so without these clinics where will Black women go for care? How worse off will our health be? How many of us will have to result in back alley illegal abortions that put us in real harm?

This is what happens when “morality” tops public health and the welfare of women.

But it’s also important to point out that House Bill 2 is just one example of the state’s extensive history of chipping away at women’s rights, which disproportionately affects poor women and women of color. The National Memo wrote:

In 2011, lawmakers decimated the Texas family planning program with a two-thirds budget cut that closed nearly 60 family planning clinics across the state and left almost 150,000 women without care.  Soon after, they also barred Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health clinics defined as “abortion affiliates” from the Women’s Health Program (WHP), a state Medicaid program on which thousands of poor women rely. 

Sigh.

In the end, this bill is more than just outlawing late-term abortions — it is a direct assault on the reproductive health and general health of women, especially the state’s most vulnerable. And while Planned Parenthood’s President Cecile Richards believes that women can “survive the Texas legislation,” I’ll admit that when it comes to Black women, I am just not that confident.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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