In perhaps the biggest blow to Roe v Wade (1973), the Supreme Court’s inaction on Texas’s S.B. 8 poses one of the greatest threats to reproductive freedom in the state and perhaps beyond. The bill is draconian in its treatment of reproductive choice and legal right to receiving an abortion in that it prohibits abortion after 6 weeks despite the fact that nearly 85-90% of abortion procedures in the state occur after 6 weeks, well before many folks know they are pregnant. People with the means to travel will be able to access abortion in neighboring states, but those without means to travel will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. This sexist and racist law will once again disproportionately impact low-income patients of color. However, perhaps more terrifyingly, the bill allows for extremists to take the law into their own hands. This Texas law is not enforceable by the state officials, but instead permits private citizens to sue anyone, from the doctor performing the procedure to those who help pay for the procedure down to the Lyft driver who drops the patient off at the clinic, for a hefty sum of $10,000 plus legal fees. Reporters need not even be connected to the patient, nor even live in the state.
This impacts OUR labor rights and OUR ability to care for our patients. As residents and fellows, we practice medicine in a safe, evidence-based manner regardless of social circumstances. We treat all patients with dignity and respect, including upholding their bodily autonomy, and use shared-decision making to ensure their medical choices are the best option for them. There is no other fathomable context or medical decision that should be made under the duress of a $10,000 lawsuit for performing a medically safe procedure. We recognize that this bill has a sweeping effect for the state of Texas, but may have rippling effects to other states in which we will go on to practice. Indeed, despite being thousands of miles away, we will undoubtedly see patients in practices seeking this care.
As Justice Sonia Sotomayor writes in her dissent, “the court’s order is stunning… a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.” We, the RFPU-NW, will not. We encourage you to also consider donating to the Reproductive Health Access Project which is split among nine abortion funds providing access to folks in Texas.
The Resident and Fellow Physicians of RFPU-NW