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Supreme Court decision overturns Roe v. Wade, effectively banning abortions in Texas

Protesters outside the Supreme Court.
Steve Helber
Associated Press
People protest about abortion, Friday, June 24, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization effectively bans abortions outright in Texas in the next 30 days.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today on a case that effectively would overturn the landmark 1973Roe v. Wadedecision on abortion rights, banning abortions in Texas. This goes into effect in the state in the next 30 days.

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, discusses if Mississippi could ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. A leaked brief in May signaled most justices were in favor of Mississippi’s ban, and shifting the power to legislate abortions back to individual states. The finalized ruling discusses that Roe v. Wade should be overruled, and recommends turning the power to weigh abortion arguments "to the people and their elected representatives."

Texas is one of 26 states that has laws in place if Roe v. Wade is overturned that would ban abortions, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization on reproductive health. Surrounding states Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana also have near-total bans in place if Roe is overturned.

Texas already banned abortions around six weeks back in September 2021 when SB 8 went into effect, which also allowed private citizens to sue anyone helping a person access abortion care. Thousands of Texans went out of state to get abortions since then, with clinicians in Texas helping to connect patients with services. The Supreme Court decision with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization means all Texans seeking abortions will have to travel hundreds of miles to neighboring states like New Mexico.

Texas lawmakers

Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued statements praising the decision.

"Texas is a pro-life state, and we have taken significant action to protect the sanctity of life," Gov. Abbott wrote.

"Today, the question of abortion returns to the states," Attorney General Paxton wrote. "And in Texas, that question has already been answered: abortion is illegal here."

Abortion providers

Whole Woman's Health, which runs abortion clinics nationwide, has stopped services across four locations in Texas, including one in Fort Worth and another in McKinney.

"Abortion has been restricted even further today in the state of Texas," said President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller. "To protect our staff, and to protect our patients from the hostile elected officials in Texas, we have ceased providing abortion care today."

Miller said she was unsure exactly when the Texas abortion bans would go into effect, and what that would mean for the future of the clinics.

"The legal landscape unfortunately in Texas is ever-changing," she said. "We are still answering the phones. The clinics were open today, hoping to see patients. A lot of those patients had to be rescheduled. Once we have a clear definition of what laws are in effect, and enforceable, and when, if we can reopen, we will."

More than 50 staff members work at the four clinics across the state, and Miller said the organization is working on keeping the staff employed.

"Unfortunately, this is blocking those people from their life's work," she said. "These teams have said we're going to be here until the end, until we are no longer allowed to provide abortion services. We're going to see as many people as we can for as long as we can."

Whole Woman's Health is still offering abortion appointments in other states like Maryland and Virginia, and telemedicine appointments where doctors can prescribe abortion medication by mail. The organization is also looking into opening new clinics in New Mexico and neighboring states to accommodate more patients.

Texas abortion funds

Advocacy organizations across North Texas have paused abortion funds, fearing legal action against staff and volunteers.

"We made that decision prior to today in preparation for a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade," said Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund. "We feel very much like we've been forced to stop our operations in regards to abortion funding."

The Texas Equal Access Fund helps people secure funding for costs associated with abortion care, like airfare and hotel expenses. Conner said the organization has stopped the phone and text line, and is in the midst of figuring out what next steps might be.

"This is not just about abortion," Conner said. "This is about creating communities where folks are safe and feel as if they can thrive and have the supports they need. So we will be rooting ourselves in that, and figuring out ways in which we can support our communities."

Even though Conner and her team had been preparing for this day, it still feels devastating.

"It still hits hard," she said. "I feel really overwhelmed not just for myself and my team, but for people in Texas that are pregnant. It feels like a dangerous time to be pregnant in our state."

The Afiya Center is a Dallas-based reproductive health organization that offers financial support to Black people and people of color seeking abortions, in addition to programming around HIV and maternal mortality. Executive Director Marsha Jones said she’s been on pins and needles the past month waiting for a ruling.

“I'm almost relieved, because I've been feeling like I've been in a thousand places," she said. "Am I angry? I’m extremely angry, but I’ve been angry. I wasn’t angry about it because it happened today, I was relieved. Now I know how we can continue to fight.”

The organization will still offer mutual aid for people needing help with housing and other health costs. Jones said she anticipates people will be forced to carry pregnancies to full term, so the organization is also ramping up its sex education and maternal mortality programming.

"The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe has put not just abortion, but all of our reproductive health rights in danger," she said. "Black women, we have always had to fight. And we continue to fight about the human right and control of our body, our work and our community. These attacks on our human rights will always be met with protests and activism. So we're not going anywhere."

Health law scholar

Seema Mohapatra, the M.D. Anderson Foundation Endowed Professor in health law at SMU, said the overturning of Roe has far-reaching legal implications.

“This is the first time a constitutional right has been taken away, so it is very historic,” Mohapatra said. “Unfortunately we are going to see that other protections that do not have to do with abortion — contraception, marriage equality — we’re going to see a whole host of things that are going to be impacted.”

Mohapatra said the court has a conservative majority to take away rights that most Americans support. She said Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion is calling for the reconsideration of other cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, Griswold v. Connecticut and Lawrence v. Texas that protect same-sex marriage, reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.

She said women who are losing a wanted pregnancy or experiencing a life-threatening complication will also be impacted by the Supreme Court's decision.

Across maternity health care, Mohapatra said treatment will change — particularly for high-risk pregnancies and miscarriages. She said some health care providers may become reluctant to prescribe certain drugs that are also used when treating patients for abortion.

“There's going to be a chilling effect in terms of people seeking or providing these kinds of services because there's this kind of legal uncertainty and mess,” she said.

Faith communities

Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church said in a statement that he's grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Today is a day we have prayed for and worked toward for decades. Life won! All praise to God who is the One who makes human life sacred. The overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court is truly a tipping point to yet another day when all abortion will not only be rare but, in fact, unthinkable,” the statement reads.

Graham thanked the Supreme Court’s conservative judges and Texas lawmakers for passing the Senate Bill 8, or so-called heartbeat bill, which effectively bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. It also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.

The Most Rev. Michael Olson, bishop of Fort Worth, also issued a statement on the decision.

"I have prayed and worked diligently for this day to arrive, we must thank God and acknowledge that this decision does not end our work for unborn children and their mothers and fathers," Olson wrote. "We must be mindful that at the heart of our prayers and labor is not the changing of law but the conversion of hearts — including our own — towards greater gratitude, respect, and love for each human person."

The Diocese of Fort Worth includes 28 counties with 91 parishes.

The story will be updated throughout the day.

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.
Elizabeth Myong is KERA’s Arts Collaborative Reporter. She came to KERA from New York, where she worked as a CNBC fellow covering breaking news and politics. Before that, she freelanced as a features reporter for the Houston Chronicle and a modern arts reporter for Houstonia Magazine.