DOVER — Planned Parenthood of Delaware and local Democratic lawmakers rallied against Texas’ recent law which restricts abortion access.
The law in Texas went into effect on Wednesday and bans abortions beyond six weeks — a period before many people know they are pregnant. One of the biggest issues that the Delaware politicians have with the new Texas law is it awards $10,000 to citizens who successfully sue abortion providers under this law.
State Sen. Marie Pinkney, D-Bear/New Castle, called it a tragic day. She said the $10,000 provision reminded her of the Jim Crow era and the Fugitive Slave Act because it pays people to turn against their neighbors.
Sen. Pinkney said she was a month removed from traveling to Washington to protest against another law passed by Texas — one that she said would limit voting rights.
“I’m protesting again about the same state that is intentionally limiting the rights of their citizens,” Sen. Pinkney said during a virtual rally hosted by Planned Parenthood of Delaware on Wednesday. “They are betraying the rights of the people who elected them and betraying the offices and the oaths that they took to do no harm.”
State Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, said this bill looks to be just the start of a nationwide assault against reproductive rights.
“These bills are designed to chip away at our basic rights, shame women and intimidate health care providers who are simply trying to provide care for their patients,” Rep. Longhurst said. “Left unchecked, these draconian overreaching policies will continue to wear down the decades of progress made in the fight for women’s rights. This is especially true in Texas where private citizens are now being incentivized to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after six weeks. It’s maddening.”
Rep. Longhurst added almost 600 bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country to limit a woman’s right to choose, calling 2021 “the most hostile year for reproductive health in the past 50 years.”
“Reproductive freedom for women is a fundamental human right,” she said. “It is also a right that generations of women have fought long and hard for many years. Time and time again, we have seen state legislators throughout our country try to erode this right by passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion bills.”
Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, a Democrat, pointed out several bills which already were proposed before the one in Texas. She referenced one from 2019 in Alabama, which imposes a penalty for doctors who perform abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest. Another measure in 2019 from Georgia allows the district attorney the discretion to bring charges against anyone who participates in an abortion.
She also criticized a decision last year by Arkansas which declared abortion services nonessential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a direct, concerted all-out war on women,” AG Jennings said. “Each and every woman in our state and across our country needs to stand up and fight. It will take each one of us and all of us collectively to keep Delaware’s rights, Delaware’s rights.”
Delaware codified Roe v. Wade into state law back in 2017 but PPDE president and CEO Ruth Lytle-Barnaby said there is more the state can do. One thing she mentioned was restricting crisis pregnancy centers.
These centers, Ms. Lytle-Barnaby said, are not always truthful or properly trained to do ultrasounds and pregnancy tests.
“They’re allowed to give patients non-factual information about their own pregnancy and it is perfectly legal,” she said. “I find that unconscionable."
State Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Heatherbrooke, said the Texas law could encourage lawmakers in other states to take bolder action against abortion. She used Delaware SB-108 as an example, a bill proposed which would have required abortion providers to offer ultrasounds and fetal heart tone service to those who were interested in an abortion.
“When you vote in 2022, don’t forget how you feel today,” Sen. Gay said. “Stand with the women of Delaware so we together can prevent infringements like SB-108 and so we can never see a Texas-like ban in our state.”