Texas roads and highways are emerging as the newest battleground over abortion care.
More than a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned and abortion was mostly outlawed in Texas, anti-abortion groups are getting more aggressive -- and creative -- in trying to stop women from getting the procedure out of state. New laws currently on the table in many smaller Texas towns would make it illegal to even drive through the city or county for the purpose of an abortion.
Two cities and counties in Texas have already passed the measure, and many more are set to vote on a similar version soon, according to the Texas Tribune. The strategy, engineered by Right to Life group architects of SB 8, a.k.a. the heartbeat bill, comes amidst growing frustrations about the number of women who are going out of state to circumvent the ban. There are questions about what would be enforced: private citizens can sue any group or party they believe to be in violation of the law. But abortion law expert Mary Ziegler with the University of California at Davis says the creators of SB8 are specifically using these ordinances as legal testers.
"They're also trying to create a precedent, kind of bit by bit, establishing that a fetus is a rights-holding person, or an unborn child is a rights-holding person in the law. It's a bid to eventually get that claim before the U.S. Supreme Court," Ziegler said.
The measure is currently up for debate in the city council of Llano, Texas. Cities like Llano are being targeted for the law: Llano, heavily conservative, sits right at the crossroads of two major highways that anyone traveling from Austin would likely take to get to New Mexico, where abortion remains legal and new clinics have opened along the border to serve women traveling from Texas. However, in an August city council meeting, Llano joined the city of Chandler in tabling the vote, echoing concerns of some conservatives about going too far.
"Some conservatives aren't sure about limiting travel. If you set a precedent that people can tell you what you can travel for, there's no reason that would naturally be limited just to abortion. And I think some conservatives look at that and say, 'Why would we do that?'" Ziegler said.
Critics of the new strategy say it's not constitutional or enforceable and is only meant to create fear and confusion. The city of Llano is set to reconsider the proposal as early as their next meeting this September.