UPDATE: In a 5-3 ruling that represents its first on abortion in close to a decade, the US Supreme Court has struck down a Texas law that would have shuttered some three quarters of state facilities that provide abortion services. Here a Texas mom watching the case before the announcement came out of Washington reflects on why this case was so scary for parents … especially those with daughters.
Politically, 2016 is shaping up to be everything your angry functioning drunk uncle looks for in an election cycle. There’s the absurdity, the ragey think pieces and the sheer Trumpiness of it all to keep even the most politically disinclined tuned in to what’s going on. But while the rest of the country shares dank Chris Christie memes and feels the Bern, Texas-based women like me have been watching another ring in the political circus. A sans-Scalia SCOTUS will be deciding on what some people are calling “the most important abortion case in decades.” And it’s far from entertaining. It’s f***ing terrifying.
I never dreamed I would one day live in Texas. Like most people not raised in the Lone Star State, Texas was little more to me than the place with the Alamo, cowboy hats, dowdy propane and propane accessories salesmen and David Koresh. My mother spent some time in Houston when she was in the military, and my brother was born in that city, but she often described the entire state as hellacious and best avoided at all costs.
More: Caution! These are the worst places to live if you have a uterus
Still, when I learned we’d be moving here for my husband’s job, I tried to be open-minded. I’ve lived in five states and boatloads of cities, so I framed it as just one more nomadic adventure. Maybe we would stay forever, maybe we wouldn’t. It wasn’t an easy transition at first. We moved to Austin in 2009, and that summer was so confoundingly hot that it shattered a 155-year record. The traffic sucked. The job market sucked.
As a new stay-at-home mom, I spent tons of time Googling “I hate texas why does it suck so bad all the time forever but especially austin please kill me” while my toddler took sweaty naps.
We talked about the subject of moving back out as soon as possible to death, and sometimes, though we’re much more at home here, we still do. If we left right now, our seven years in Texas would be a mere blip on the timeline of my husband’s and my life spans.
Our daughter is a different story. She has no memory of living anywhere but here and is on her way to flying her Texas-pride flag high. She even lets a “ma’am” or an “I’m fixin’ to…” slip every once in a while, something I jokingly pretend to be bothered by but is actually terribly cute.
It’s by following her example that I stopped being so negative about my new home. Once it cooled down and I became a much more bearable person to be around both in attitude and odor, I met people. Texas people. Friendly, lovely, welcoming people who are still my good friends. I learned to appreciate the Hill Country’s beauty, the utter perfection of a well-made breakfast taco and the singular, blissful experience of H-E-B shopping.
We bought a home. Our daughter enrolled in school. We moved to Dallas. We bought a different house. We found an even nicer school for our now 9-year-old. Texas — for better or worse — is our home. It took in our family of unwilling transplants with a reasonable amount of graciousness, and on the whole, Texas has been very, very good to the Edwardses.
The youngest Edwards loves Texas.
It’s heartbreaking to know that Texas does not love her back.
Today a nasty little piece of Texas legislation goes before the remaining eight justices of the Supreme Court. HB 2 was signed into law back when my child was just learning how to navigate the lunch line in kindergarten and memorizing the Texas Pledge. It is so riddled with flaming hoops for abortion providers to jump through that it’s caused half of Texas’ clinics to close down, leaving women in a state that’s larger than the entire country of France just 10 clinics for abortion services. A SCOTUS ruling upholding it would cut that already dismal number in half. Even if the SCOTUS is split on the decision, the law stands.
That’s bad news for me and for my daughter and millions of other women who will have extremely limited access to safe abortions, as is our constitutionally protected right. Even before this goes to decision, the effects of the already stringent law have been devastating. If the state hopes to reduce the abortion rate in its grossly paternalistic and laughably transparent quest to “improve women’s health care,” it’s in for a nasty surprise.
DIY abortions and black market abortifacients like shoddily made to outright counterfeit misoprostole are already on the rise. The number of women who get abortions will likely stay about the same, while the number of women who maim or kill themselves in the process will skyrocket.
Every day, my daughter inches closer to “adult” and further from “child.” She is maturing in body and mind whether or not my husband and I are ready for it.
Will she ever need an abortion? I hope not. Texas’ insane race to the bottom notwithstanding, no one actively hopes that someone they love will ever find themselves needing to end a pregnancy. On the contrary, she will ideally — and in spite of the shoddy, abstinence-based information her school district peddles as a matter of course — practice smart, safe sex if and when she is ready to and one day approach motherhood in joy and not panic.
But if by some chance she does need one, I would want her to be able to obtain one safely and legally, as is her prerogative. It would be monstrous to force her to have a child before she is ready and monstrous to subject her to whatever DIY methods are left when all of Texas’ remaining clinics have finally been bludgeoned to death by bureaucracy. My skin crawls to think that before she even hits puberty, men like Dan Flynn and Greg Abbott have more authority over her body than she does.
But putting abortion aside for a moment, if something so basic as controlling what goes in and comes out of one’s body is considered to be outside of the grasp of half of Texas’ population, how else will that color her experience of womanhood here? She lives in a state that imagines her to be so idiotic and potentially incapable of making her own medical decisions that they think nothing of doing it for her. If we stay in the place my child loves as much as any die-hard native, if she goes to UT Austin (as she already breathlessly tells everyone she plans to), if she marries and has chubby little babies that she photographs in patches of bluebonnets and takes to Hamilton Pool on hot summer days, then in what other ways will she be expected to cede control of her person — her life — to a bunch of strangers in the Capitol building?
I don’t know. And I don’t think I’m willing to find out.