The announcement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends to sue Texas for its recently enacted restrictive law surrounding abortion in the state was being hailed by women of all backgrounds. But Black women, in particular, applauded the DOJ‘s decision to file suit for the “extreme” legislation that undermines the group’s consistent calls for reproductive justice.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit on Thursday, one week after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Texas’ new law — Senate Bill 8 — in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines that all but confirmed suspicions that the increasingly conservative group of justices have an agenda to ultimately overturn the landmark case that legalized a woman’s right to have an abortion. Garland said the law violates the Constitution.
“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Garland said in a statement Thursday. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
Specifically, Senate Bill 8 makes it illegal to perform an abortion in Texas for any woman who is more than six weeks pregnant, timing that physicians have said is sooner than many women even know they’re pregnant in the first place.
The ruling disproportionately affects Black women, who, statistics show account for about 25% of all abortions performed in Texas, where the group makes up only 13% of the state’s population. The data suggest those same Black women in Texas are disproportionately uninsured, making their reliance on public clinics like the ones that perform abortions crucial.
It was in that context that the DOJ lawsuit was being welcomed by Black women.
“We applaud President Biden and the Department of Justice for taking swift action against Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban. We asked the president to act and he has,” Marcela Howell, president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said in a statement emailed to NewsOne on Thursday afternoon. “While we welcome this step in the right direction, we need more action. This lawsuit must be the first step of an all-out federal response to fight back against this assault on all women and pregnant people — especially Black women.”
Some of the specific ways Black women will be disproportionately affected include economic hardships caused by their inflexible work schedules and extensive family obligations many Black women living in Texas are facing. That means those same Black women will be forced to endure longer wait times, increased travel and financial expenses.
That’s why In Our Own Voice also said the lawsuit is not enough and demanded that Congress do its part, too.
“We also call on Congress to act by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) and send it to President Biden for his signature,” Howell added. “We need bold actions and creative problem-solving to protect the rights of all women. This isn’t politics as usual; the lives of Texas women and pregnant people are in jeopardy.”
Back on the Roe v. Wade anniversary earlier this year, Monica Simpson — executive director of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a national activist organization advocating for reproductive justice for women of color — told NewsOne that the efforts to keep abortion fully legal are connected to larger struggles for social justice.
“In order to create safe and sustainable communities where people can live healthy lives, we need to trust in the leadership of Black women,” Simpson said in January.
Chris Love, the Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates Arizona, also warned in a conversation with NewsOne at the time that abortion being legal alone is not enough to protect access — a prediction that came true with the Supreme Court’s vote on the law in Texas.
“I’m constantly reminded that meaningful abortion access is not a reality for many folks in Black communities across this country and around the world,” Love said. “We should celebrate that Roe is still the law of the land, but we have so much further to go to ensure that all people who can become pregnant have the ability to make their own autonomous and informed reproductive choices.”
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