The strictest anti-abortion law in the US went into effect on 1 September after the US Supreme Court let the 31 August deadline to block it pass, after an emergency appeal. The new law in Texas allows any private citizen to sue anyone deemed to have helped a woman get an abortion against the law, although not the patient themselves.
Campaigners are worried this will empower anti-choice reactionaries to make harassing lawsuits, paralysing the few abortion clinics still open, in the state.
The US Justice Department said that it will not tolerate violence against anyone seeking abortion services in the state and that federal officials are exploring all options to challenge this effective ban on almost all terminations.
To encourage reporting under the new law, Texas Right to Life has established a digital tipline. “Any Texan can bring a lawsuit against an abortionist or someone aiding and abetting an abortion after six weeks,” the website reads, and those proved to be violating the law can be fined a minimum of $10,000. An online form allows anyone to submit an anonymous “report” of someone illegally aiding an abortion, including a section where images can be uploaded for proof.
Pro-choice users on TikTok and Reddit have launched a online effort to thwart the law, flooding this tip-website with false reports, Shrek memes and porn. The site, launched a month ago, has crashed several times as a result. One TikTok user said they had submitted 742 fake reports of the governor, Greg Abbott, getting illegal abortions. Others have been writing programs to allow users to mass upload reports.
The Women’s March is planning a nationwide day of rallies in all 50 states in support of reproductive rights. Marches are scheduled for 2 October, two days before the Supreme Court reconvenes for its new term. The first Women’s March took place on 21 January 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as president, with the original intention of challenging sexist statements he made as a candidate. The campaign has since expanded to concentrating on issues including reproductive health and sexual violence.
Organisers say that Women’s March was the largest single-day protest in US history. As many as five million marchers participated at rallies across the US, including 500,000 in Washington, another 500,000 in New York, and as many as 750,000 in Los Angeles.