An Inequitable Healthcare System: Texas' Abortion Restrictions
Photo Credit: NBC News
In September 2021, Texas enacted SB 8 – an extreme abortion restriction that bans abortion at around 6 weeks of being pregnant. SB 8, or the Texas Heartbeat Act, states that “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat,” and is now one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. Further, citizens are able to sue anyone who they suspect are aiding another person in getting an abortion.
Many of the people who are affected by Texas’ ban, and abortion restrictions in general, are people of color. Texas’ abortion ban not only disregards reproductive rights, but also an equitable healthcare system. According to KFF’s statistics on Infant Mortality Rate by Race/Ethnicity, infants of color under one year of age (i.e., Black or African American, Hispanic) were more likely than white infants to die, even in years prior to SB 8. More recently, Texas has been rated one of the bottom performing states in mortality amendable to healthcare. Thus, the question that should really be asked pertains to the overall reliability and priorities of Texas’ healthcare system, which is especially concerning for people of color.
Studies have shown that women who are denied an abortion are more likely to fall into poverty, than those who were able to get an abortion. The demographics who continue to be failed by Texas’ abortion ban and healthcare system includes Black patients, those living on low-incomes, and those who are geographically distant from abortion facilities. Due to lack of Medicaid eligibility and inadequate private insurance plans in Texas, low-income women are unable to access preventative care, such as contraception to prevent unintended pregnancies. With no insurance and nowhere to turn, SB 8 forces women to turn to a potentially life-threatening alternative to a safe abortion, in the instances where they believe there are no other options. This abortion restriction continues to reinforce systemic inequalities in the healthcare system amongst marginalized groups.
Photo Credit: BBC via Kaiser Family Foundation, US Census Bureau
“Research suggests that higher rates of unintended pregnancy among people of color may be related to disparities in consistent contraception access and use, which are often rooted in structural inequities like poverty and racism”
In 2011, there were 5 times more unintended pregnancies among women below the federal poverty level, compared to those with an income at or above the poverty level. Abortion should be included in costs that insurance will cover in attempts to prevent the rate of poverty from growing further, as abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poverty-stricken communities.
Although Texas’ inequitable healthcare system is not something that can be solved overnight, there have been steps towards a brighter future in the case of abortion justice for all women. The current legislative attempts at combatting Texas’ abortion law are most notably seen in the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage (EACH) Act and the Women’s Health Protective Act (WHPA) -- both of which were developed to protect the right to access abortion care throughout the United States. Women’s right to healthcare, specifically abortion care, should be a concern to all people. The aims of the EACH and WHPA campaigns have to do with more than just access to abortion care, but also tearing down the barriers of healthcare that marginalized groups disproportionately encounter.
Photo Credit: Sergio Flores/ The Washington Post/ Getty Images
· “There’s power in sharing abortion stories, advocates say”
· “Everything You Need to Know About SB 8, Texas’ Latest Extreme Abortion Restriction”
· “Fact Sheet: About the Hyde Amendment”
· “Texas’s New Abortion Law Will Harm People of Color, Further Entrench Racist Policies”
· “Infant Mortality Rate by Race/Ethnicity”
· “Mortality amendable to healthcare”
· Houston Chronicle: Texas ranks among worst in the nation for racial health disparities”
· “Texas abortion law will hurt people of color, those with low incomes and other marginalized groups, advocates say”
Resources & Steps Toward Change:
· Each Act Fact Sheet
· ABORTION ACCESS IS A RIGHT – IT’S TIME TO PROTECT IT
· Take Action
· “New Poll: A Solid Majority of Voters Support the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA)