Late last night, three republican judges (all appointed by former president George W. Bush) at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated legislation that requires Texas clinics offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in order to perform abortions on-site. This ruling comes on the heels of the news on Monday that Judge Yeakal ruled that that part of the law was unconstitutional.
What does this mean? That abortion clinics are calling up patients and canceling appointments, and many clinics will be forced to close completely. Only 5 clinics out of the 42 in Texas meet the requirements of the new legislation, meaning that women will be forced to travel far to get the services they need. Some fabulous organizing efforts have already been put into place, such as Fund Texas Women, which is raising money to help give financial assistance for bus tickets and hotel stays for women. Texas Equal Access Fund (TEAFund) also helps women financially, and they are keeping us updated on closures and the status of clinics on their twitter feed and Facebook wall.
While I am all about prevention and education, sometimes I have to turn my attention to policy, advocacy, rights, and services. You bet I’m freakin out about this one, and I hope others are too. Part of me wants to pack up my bag and join the efforts in Texas to elect Wendy Davis and help women regain their rights. I am so glad that women ARE mobilizing.
So the takeaway for educators is that young people need to know how to access services, and what to do if those services are limited. One experiential educational activity could be giving each student a ‘profile’ of someone who needs a particular reproductive health service (including, but not limited to abortion), a city and state (not just Texas but maybe a variety of locations), and some life details (in school, job, health insurance coverage). Then assign them the task of finding a service provider, the cost of the service, the hours that they are available, the distance they will have to travel, the transportation method and cost, if they will need hotel/housing (and cost of that, too!), and how that will impact the rest of their life (do they need childcare for a child already in the family? will this force them to miss class? how will this affect their job?). This person could be a woman, or a man- maybe it’s the boyfriend, the brother, or the father of someone who needs these services. After they have found the information, pair up with another person and compare notes. In having to find the information, the participants will learn not just what services are (or aren’t) available, but HOW to access them. Just remember, the goal isn’t to scare them or make them afraid of needing an abortion, it’s to prepare them for accessing services they (or someone they know) may need in the future. They will also hopefully learn the value of laws that ensure ACCESS to reproductive health services. (BTW, this may already be a more polished lesson plan that someone has written and published. If that’s the case, please share that info!)
Texas isn’t the only state affected by these egregious laws, but it’s certainly getting lots of attention. I hope that we can use this opportunity to bring to light the negative impact of all sorts of TRAP laws that reduce access to vital reproductive health services across the US.