With news of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for many of us, the world stood still—no more so for anyone than those of us who work in the reproductive justice movement. At Texas Equal Access Fund, an abortion fund that provides financial and emotional support for those in our state who seek care, we’ve known for years what’s at stake at the courts, and what the vacancy left by Ginsburg, a champion for reproductive freedom, could mean for our futures.
While keeping abortion legal is essential, we’ve also known that the legal right to abortion alone has never been enough, and has left behind those who are struggling financially, Black women, and women of color for years. The true fight for abortion access and reproductive justice has always taken place in our communities, with abortion funds, mutual aid efforts, and local organizing for justice. And we’re fighting for so much more than crumbs of our rights from the courts.
Ginsburg was known and respected by feminist advocates and leaders across the country for her pioneering legal work to advance gender equality. But here in Texas, her legacy of understanding the complexities of barriers to abortion care, her influence in the recent abortion cases, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, and more recently, June Medical Services v. Russo, have made her an icon of the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement in our state.
The clinic shutdown laws the Supreme Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt had a devastating effect in Texas. House Bill 2 notoriously decimated more than half of our state’s clinics between 2013 and 2016. As a result of these mass clinic closures, Texans seeking abortions had to travel 20 times farther to reach their nearest clinic. Those seeking care in our state incurred significant costs of travel, lodging, child care, lost wages from missed work, and other barriers disproportionately shouldered by Black and brown women and people of color, who are more likely to live in poverty and be uninsured. In her opinion, Ginsburg pointed out that the Texas law in question did “little or nothing for health,” and was intended entirely to restrict access to abortion—the true goal of anti-abortion laws everywhere. Blocking clinic shutdown laws, like the ones the Supreme Court struck down in Texas and Louisiana, is crucial to ensuring clinics can continue to offer care and alleviating these barriers.
Ginsburg also played a crucial role in Supreme Court decisions on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, marriage equality, civil rights, and racial justice. All of these decisions to support the legal rights and health of LGBTQ+ folks and people of color are inextricably tied to reproductive justice, too, and ensuring everyone is able to participate in democracy, reach economic security, and get the health care they need to thrive.
At TEA Fund, we have always been clear-eyed about how systemic racism impacts abortion access, and who can and can’t reach abortion care. Through our deep respect for Ginsburg’s career and legacy of championing reproductive freedom, we recognize the racist harm of some of her decisions on Indigenous land and immigration, and the enduring need to center the health and rights of Black, brown, and Indigenous folks in our work. And similarly, we recognize how even positive, landmark rulings for abortion access in the courts have always left behind many of our people across lines of race and class.
Since TEA Fund was founded in 2005, we’ve served around 1,000 clients annually, 70% of whom were people of color, and 50% of whom are already parents, with severely limited access to health care, transportation, and other basic resources. In states like ours, which have been bombarded by racist, classist, and dangerous abortion restrictions in the legislature in the last decade, we have long been painfully aware that the right to abortion alone is and has never been enough.
Ginsburg’s death marks a crucial focal point for our movement, and renewed urgency and uncertainty for the future of abortion rights in the U.S. With the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who signed onto a letter calling for the end of Roe v. Wade, President Donald Trump has fulfilled his promise to appoint a judge who would strike down or fully dismantle Roe. This vacancy marks a severe threat to the legal right to abortion care—but racist, classist barriers to abortion access and rampant reproductive injustice have always existed. And we, abortion funds largely, have always risen to meet the challenges of the moment.
The threat of a 6-3 conservative, anti-abortion majority on the highest court in the land is daunting, and has major implications for the human rights of women and pregnant folks; Black, Indigenous and people of color; immigrants; LGBTQ+ folks; low-income folks; disabled folks; and democracy as a whole. It’s crucial that we recognize the existential challenges we face, but it’s just as crucial that we recognize our power and ability to impact change.
Those of us who work at abortion funds have been organizing and fighting against, at times, seemingly impossible odds for decades. We know the fight ahead isn’t easy, but we also know for the women of color and low-income folks we work with, it never has been easy.
In the coming days and weeks, it is on all of us to rise to meet this moment, and channel the tenacity and persistence of the late Justice Ginsburg as we protect our rights and protect ourselves and each other. We can’t afford pessimism, self-defeatism, or even compromise—and we can’t afford to let the courts decide our fate. Instead, Ginsburg’s passing must be a revolution, a call to action for all of us—to support our local abortion funds, to organize in our communities, to empower ourselves and our neighbors. This must be the fight of and for our lives, and it will be fought and won where the movement for reproductive justice has always taken place: right here, in our communities.