When the Supreme Court decision came out on Monday striking down two provisions of House Bill 2, political organizations across the state joined in the celebration. And this moment was much deserved – after all, it isn’t too often that progressive Texans get such a decisive win.
But many of the statements, emails, and social media images that were shared followed a disturbing trend.
“SCOTUS Rejects Radical Healthcare Restrictions.”
“…draconian healthcare restrictions.”
“…access to reproductive healthcare”
“Texas Republicans’ clinic closure bill HB 2…”
“The Supreme Court ruled in favor of women’s health and women’s rights!”
Notice anything glaringly missing? How about the word “abortion?”
From this coverage, you might never know that the Supreme Court had just issued the most important decision regarding abortion access in decades. It’s like covering last week’s devastating split decision on DACA and DAPA without using the word “immigration:” ridiculous.
These restrictions, while assuredly “draconian” and related to reproductive healthcare, were specifically targeted at reducing access to abortion care in Texas. The clinics that closed weren’t just any clinics – they were clinics that provide abortion care. The Supreme Court didn’t just rule about “women’s rights” – they took a strong position in favor of protecting every person’s right to abortion. And that matters.
When discussing a landmark court decision that originated with abortion care providers and advocates in Texas, the continuing refusal of high profile progressive and Democratic organizations to say “abortion” is not only cowardly, it is also an affront to the very people whose tireless work was central to this win.
Republicans and anti-choice activists aren’t afraid to say “abortion” when they enshrine their intent to overthrow Roe v. Wade into their party platforms, or when they talk about the next wave of restrictions they’re bringing to the legislature. And there’s a reason for that.
They have carefully crafted a culture of abortion stigma so insidious even those who support pro-choice candidates play into it. It is abortion stigma that gives these groups the cover to continue attacking abortion access, and allows Republican lawmakers to control the conversation on abortion in the legislature, the media, and society.
Every time democrats and progressive organizations avoid the A-word, they are following rules from an anti-choice playbook. It is far past time for this to end.
If we truly care about abortion access in Texas, and if real reproductive justice is a part of our vision for a better future in our state, then we have to take an active stand against abortion stigma.
Seemingly countless polls and studies have shown that Texans know what Republicans stand for. When it comes to Democrats, they know what we are against – but they don’t know what we’re for. Given the rhetorical gymnastics influential Democratic organizations perform to avoid the word “abortion,” it’s no wonder they’re confused.
Playing it safe isn’t winning elections, and it isn’t helping us to communicate what makes us a party worth supporting. Worse still – when we play into the Republicans’ abortion stigma, we are choosing the illusion of safe messaging over standing up for the people we are supposed to represent.
This could be a turning point in the fight for reproductive freedom in Texas, but only if we’re brave enough to embrace abortion-forward messaging and leave abortion stigma where it belongs: with anti-choice legislation like House Bill 2 on the wrong side of history.