October 2023 Church & State Magazine - October 2023

Texas towns seek to block use of roads for ‘abortion trafficking’


Anti-abortion extremists are pressuring towns in Texas to pass measures that would make it illegal for people to use local roads to transport someone to get an abortion in another state, The Washington Post has reported. 

“Antiabortion advocates behind the measure are targeting regions along interstates and in areas with airports, with the goal of blocking off the main arteries out of Texas and keeping pregnant women hemmed within the confines of their antiabortion state,” The Post reported. “These provisions have already passed in two counties and two cities, creating legal risk for those traveling on major highways including Interstate 20 and Route 84, which head toward New Mexico, where abortion remains legal and new clinics have opened to accommodate Texas women. Several more jurisdictions are expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks.”

An anti-abortion extremist named Mark Lee Dickson has been crisscrossing the state prodding local governments to pass the measure. Dickson says allowing women to leave for abortions elsewhere is “abortion trafficking.” Under his proposed law, a private citizen would have the right to sue anyone who used highways and roads to help someone procure an abortion. The laws may be of dubious legality, but one expert told The Post they are structured in a way that makes it difficult to get “standing” — the right to sue — to challenge them in court. 

Advocates of reproductive freedom say the point of the laws is to sow fear and confusion; Dickson and his allies hope to terrorize people to the extent that they’re afraid to exercise their rights by traveling to New Mexico or other states to get the procedure done.

 Dickson told The Post, “This really is building a wall to stop abortion trafficking.” 

But supporters of legal abortion say there’s no such thing as “abortion trafficking.” The term “trafficking” is usually applied to people who are moved from one place to another against their will, abused and often forced to work without pay — not someone who voluntarily seeks to receive a medical procedure in another state. 

In other news about abortion:

  • Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) says the state has the power to prosecute anyone who helps women leave the state for abortions.

Marshall made the statement in a court filing in late August. The legal action concerns a group called Yellowhammer Fund, which provides “financial and practical support for those who are pregnant and require assistance.” Marshall has publicly stated that if the group helps women leave the state for abortions elsewhere, it will be criminally investigated.

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