Not content to ban abortions themselves, pro-life politicians in Texas are now taking aim at the state’s roads and airports. Here’s how the battle over “abortion trafficking” is shaping up and what it may mean for reproductive rights.
Ready and Waiting
Texas was ready and waiting when the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the summer of 2022.
That ruling kicked the decision over the legality of abortion back to the states. Texas was quick to ban the procedure at all stages of pregnancy.
Since then, Texas women who decide they want or need an abortion have had few choices.
They could either take their pregnancies to full term, seek out dangerous and now illegal options or head out of state for the medical help they need.
But now, that last option is fast evaporating, too. Thanks to the adoption of several so-called “abortion trafficking” laws, heading over state lines for an abortion could be a crime in itself.
Women Fleeing to a Pro-Abortion State
Not only that, but anyone who helps a woman flee to a pro-abortion state could also face criminal penalties if they live in one of the affected areas.
As the Washington Post reported in early September, most of these new laws take the form of local ordinances.
The language of these measures varies to some degree, but the basic gist is that it’s now a crime to transport someone through the affected areas for the purpose of reaching a pro-abortion state.
Some of the laws are very specific that the violation applies to any trip where the purpose is an abortion and that begins, ends, or even passes through the city or county where the law is in place.
In some cases, the laws have been enacted to limit direct travel from one part of Texas to a neighboring state by roadway.
Roadblocks and Lawsuits
And in others, the ordinances include airports in their jurisdiction. That could limit the ability of women to fly out of state for the purpose of getting an abortion.
Beyond the stated purpose of stopping women from traveling for abortions, though, some fear the new laws may essentially trap women in the state through their entire pregnancies.
Part of the problem is that enforcing the laws is going to be tough, at best. Some suggest the only real way to do that would be to set up roadblocks looking for pregnant women and then questioning them.
Others point out that the laws allow anyone to sue a person or an organization if they think they’re trying to help a woman travel to get an abortion.
Either way, the chance of running into legal problems might be just the sort of deterrent lawmakers had in mind when crafting these latest anti-abortion measures.
But those same laws could subject every pregnant woman and anyone she associates with to the same sort of harassment, whether she wants an abortion or not.
Because of all this, critics claim that the laws restrict a woman’s right to travel. That would be a constitutional violation, but one that’s hard to prove.
Experts say that by pushing the job of making accusations of abortion trafficking onto private citizens, it will be hard for targets to get traction on any claims of constitutional violations.
In the end, there may not be many punishments handed out thanks to these new trafficking laws. But they just may hit their mark of reducing the number of abortions Texas women have, at least in the short term.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vic Hinterlang