Progressives Face Uphill Battle in Fight Against New Texas Abortion Law

After the Supreme Court declined to take up a new Texas abortion law that effectively circumvents Roe v. Wade and bans all abortions six weeks after conception, one progressive group's statement stood out from the all the others among the shocked and angry responses from opponents of the law.

RAICES, a group that provides immigration legal services, released a statement calling the law an "abomination," along with a clear message.

"RAICES will not obey this archaic and sexist law," the group wrote. "We've funded & supported access to abortions for immigrants in Texas for years and will continue to do so."

The group so wanted to amplify its opposition that it sent the statement directly to reporters via Twitter.

But after agreeing to have a senior staff member walk Newsweek through the sensitive details of how their opposition might take shape, the group canceled the interview just before it was scheduled to occur, saying that they were no longer granting interviews on the abortion law.

Before declining new interviews, Miriam Camero, the vice president of social programs at RAICES, raised the issue of vulnerable migrant women on MSNBC, and said the law did not make exceptions "for our victims of rape, child abuse, trafficking, domestic violence."

This situation is a snapshot of the staggering difficulties facing progressive and women's groups in Texas related to a law they fiercely oppose: How exactly do you actively oppose the law without breaking it and making your group a target of the lawsuits the law deputizes Texans to file against anyone who performs or aids an abortion?

Avow, a Texas group that broke away from NARAL Pro-Choice America in January because they wanted to stand out as "unapologetically pro-abortion," told Newsweek the group's work now has multiple pillars.

While Avow does not provide abortions itself, it launched an online donation form after the law took effect, splitting the donations with ten Texas abortion funds. After Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez made a form based on the Avow call to action, they raised $1 million in just 48 hours.

That injection of money is being used by groups to get women in Texas the care they need, including providing funds to get out of Texas to other states for abortions beyond the reach of the Texas law.

Caroline Duble, Avow's political director, also told Newsweek the organization is "knee deep in prep for 2022," where several statewide seats are available and Republican lawmakers are up for reelection.

"We're going to hold any legislator who had anything to do with law accountable," she said.

The group is also holding "Let's talk about abortion" trainings with their Houston and Dallas outreach staff at a time when voters are willing to listen and may believe Republicans have gone too far.

But that doesn't mean the group will change its messaging to appeal to moderates, Duble said.

"What's important at Avow is not watering down our message," she said. "Yes, we want to speak to moderates and to everyone, but we want to be clear we unapologetically advocate for abortion access for anybody, no matter the reason."

Texas women's groups say the new abortion law does away with choice in chilling ways they saw play out just hours after it went into effect.

The Lilith Fund, one of the top abortion funds in the state, has offered abortion assistance for 20 years, often receiving 50 calls a day to their hotline. But in the 48 hours after the law, only 20 calls came in.

"It doesn't mean that all of those people just stopped needing help with their abortions," Shae Ward, director of the Lilith Fund's hotline, told Forbes. "It means their choice got taken away, and they no longer have any options or know if it's safe to reach out."

With appointments at abortion clinics in nearby states filling up because of the crush of interest from women and groups in Texas, and the confusion and misinformation in the wake of the law, Lilith Fund and other groups launched the website NeedAbortion.org to provide education about the law and information for women in need of services.

Cristina Tzintzún, a former U.S. Senate candidate in Texas and executive director of NextGen America, told Newsweek that many abortion fund groups are still figuring out their plans moving forward. She said it's important to understand the history of Texas, where she said the "ultra-right has never been OK with women being able to control their own bodies."

Her message to progressives in Texas is to fight, because the state has now become a laboratory displaying what "minority rule" looks like, and what the future could hold for the country.

"Texas is majority people of color. We're the third-youngest state. It's time to fight back," she said. "Right now Texas is ruled, these people are not governing, and we have to mobilize the population that doesn't feel represented."

Opposition to the law isn't limited to Democrats and activists, however.

Tech groups like the Dallas-based Match Group, which owns dating apps Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, have gotten involved as well. CEO Shar Dubey sent a memo to employees a day after the law went into effect saying that as a woman in Texas she "could not keep silent."

The company decided to create a fund to cover travel expenses for employees seeking care outside of Texas, Wired reported. Bumble, another dating app based in Austin, set up a similar fund.

A Democratic member of Congress told Newsweek the law could have a chilling effect for Texas in recruiting businesses and employees to move to the state.

"The abortion stuff, the gun stuff, at some point you go too far," the source said.

But the lawmaker cautioned that opposition to the law that leads people to say they don't want to live in Texas anymore is exactly what Republicans want.

"I thought for years one of their strategies was trying to make Texas a conservative haven, pulling in high-profile people like Joe Rogan and Glenn Beck to move here," the Democrat said. "But now it's the opposite — they're doing something to drive people out."

abortion law texas
Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on September 11, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Texas Lawmakers recently passed several pieces of conservative legislation, including SB8, which prohibits abortions in Texas after a fetal heartbeat is detected on an ultrasound, usually between the fifth and sixth weeks of pregnancy. Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images