Last month, we observed the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The roots of Roe begin in our home state of Texas, when a young lawyer took the fight to decriminalize abortion all the way to the Supreme Court. At the time of the ruling, activists celebrated, thinking once and for all, the right to decide when or if to become a parent was truly ours. Today, abortion still remains legal in all 50 states. But our lived experiences and our work here in Texas, as the leader of a local abortion fund and an abortion provider, remind us each day that legality alone was never enough.
Texas offers a harrowing glimpse of why our communities need more than Roe to protect our human right to abortion care. The abyss of barriers and obstacles that we guide people through to obtain a legal medical service would make your head spin. Over the last 20 years, states like Texas have passed myriad medically unnecessary, socially irresponsible, and costly laws aimed at shutting down abortion clinics, preventing access to care, and intimidating physicians. Restrictions on abortion coverage from private insurance or Medicaid, gestational age bans, laws preventing the practice of evidence-based medicine, and other harmful policies work to push abortion care out of reach and further marginalize the communities we serve. The effects of these policies have been exacerbated by the ongoing economic recession and dual public health crises we face today, which disproportionately harm people of color, who comprise the majority of people who seek support from abortion funds like ours.
We’ve supported patients nearly forced to choose between the cost of ending a pregnancy and paying for groceries or rent. We’ve seen patients who had to travel more than 300 to 400 miles to get care, because of rampant clinic shutdowns across our state. We’ve heard from patients who had to delay having an abortion because they didn’t have the money or resources to get care when they needed it. And then there are the people we never see, those who simply gave up, because the hurdles to obtain time-sensitive and essential care were just too great.
When the state used COVID-19 as a veiled excuse to shut down our clinics last year, we each saw the toll get heavier. As a physician, Dr. Moayedi personally called every patient scheduled for abortion care with her the next day. People told her they were scared—scared to continue a pregnancy during a global pandemic and scared to travel out of state to access abortion care. As her daily calls continued over the next few weeks, she wept with the people who entrusted her with their care, saying, “We still don’t know when we can see you, we are doing everything we can.” Even now that our clinics are technically open, the pandemic is ever present in the exam room. Every day, Dr. Moayedi cares for people who tell her they lost their jobs, are still out of work, were evicted, or lost their partners or caregivers due to COVID-19.
At TEA Fund, we heard from callers who were confused and angry about the inability to access necessary care. Because of the expertise and knowledge that abortion funds have, we also served as a resource for many Texans without financial access to abortion care amid COVID-19. Our callers were the same people who had been furloughed from work and walking into empty grocery stores, trying to keep their families afloat. With over 50% of our callers being parents, we heard from parents who were struggling to secure food for their children, now having to travel hundreds of miles out of state in order to obtain essential care to support the well-being of their families.
Although it can often be disheartening and exhausting to work so hard to provide and fund abortion care in Texas, it is a joy to be able to care for our communities. The struggle that people in Texas face to access abortion can and should embolden all of us to no longer just rely on the promise of Roe, but instead to envision a world beyond Roe, where the right to abortion is the floor, not the ceiling, and each of us can get the care we need to live and thrive in safe, healthy communities.
Across the country, the pandemic has exposed how our policies and systems have always pushed economic security and health care—and especially abortion care—out of reach. As we welcome a new presidential administration which has pledged to “build back better,” we can do more than return to “a normal” which left our communities behind. As women of color, abortion providers, and abortion funders who have borne witness to the devastating impacts of abortion barriers, we’re done compromising and settling for crumbs from politicians and courts. Instead, we’re building power and forging a path forward for justice, freedom, and liberation for everyone. We can organize in our communities demanding policy change, from abortion coverage to maternal care and child care. We can build a future where people can get an abortion when they need it by organizing to overturn the laws that oppress us and replace them with laws that support and uplift us. And each one of us can pledge to build a society where our decisions are met with love, support, and dignity. We can, and we will.