At midnight last night, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a law banning nearly all abortions in Texas to go into effect, almost completely cutting off access to abortion care in the second-largest state in the country and signaling serious trouble for the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
The law bans abortion after 6 weeks, a clear violation of the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until the point of viability. Anti-abortion lawmakers in numerous states have passed similar legislation over the past few years, but this is the first time such a law has been allowed to go into effect rather than being blocked by the courts.
The U.S. Supreme Court had until midnight last night to act on an appeal made against the law to prevent it from taking effect, but ultimately did nothing. Though it still may act to block the Texas law at some point, the court’s decision to let the law take effect signaled a lack of interest in upholding constitutional abortion rights and provided insight into how it will rule on the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which presents a direct threat to Roe.
It’s a scenario that advocates in Colorado have been preparing for by shoring up access to reproductive health care and fighting abortion restrictions here. With abortion inaccessible in Texas, patients in desperate situations will turn to states like Colorado for care, and providers and advocates say they’re ready to help.
“The first and most urgent message I have for Texas patients, Texas providers, and all those who will be impacted by this draconian law is this: We stand with you, and we are here for you,” said Vicki Cowart, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM), in a press statement. “Here in the Rocky Mountain region, our health center doors are open to anyone who seeks high-quality, compassionate health care, no matter where they live.”
The Texas law also contains a unique twist that is designed to freeze efforts from advocates to help people get care. Unlike previous bans, it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who so much as helps someone get an abortion and grants them a reward of at least $10,000 if they win the lawsuit, essentially creating an abortion bounty hunt in Texas.
Cowart said this “isolates patients by placing their entire support network in potential legal jeopardy.”
“It’s extreme, cruel, and stands in stark contrast to the strong support the vast majority Americans have for abortion care in this country,” she said.
“The Supreme Court and the federal appeals court letting SB 8 stand represents a threat not just to patients and providers in Texas but to the Constitutional right to abortion across the country,” said Karen Middleton, President of the local abortion rights advocacy organization Cobalt, in a press statement. “Despite the best efforts of politicians who are trying to ban abortion altogether, we at Cobalt are still here, ready to help.”
Middleton said Cobalt is ready to help anyone who needs abortion care get it in Colorado by mitigating financial and logistical barriers through their abortion fund, trying to address the predictable outcome of an abortion ban in which the rich have access but others do not.
“The Cobalt Abortion Fund exists for this reason – to ensure people who need abortion care can access it,” she said. “We have stepped up before and we will now, for Coloradans and anyone from any state. In addition to helping clients pay for abortion care in Colorado, the Cobalt Abortion Fund can also assist patients with practical support such as gas cards, groceries, hotel stays, and transportation. And we intend to do so.”
Due to a lack of restrictions on abortion in Colorado, many people already come to the state for abortion care. With Roe in serious jeopardy, abortion mostly illegal in Texas, and anti-abortion lawmakers in every state as emboldened as ever (this year, more state-level abortion restrictions were passed than ever before), Colorado’s status as an abortion rights safe haven is all the more critical.