With the passage of Senate Bill 8 and the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Texans have mobilized to restore reproductive rights and close gaps in access to care. With funding from the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, a key avenue in this fight is strategic legal advocacy.
For example, with the Foundation’s support, the ACLU of Texas challenged pre-Roe criminal statutes in our state and delayed the enforcement of new laws criminalizing abortion care. In addition, the organization’s popular “Know Your Rights” website explains the complex legal landscape surrounding abortion care in Texas, providing clear, accessible information to the public.
In March, the Center for Reproductive Rights, a longtime Foundation partner, filed Zurawski v. State of Texas on behalf of five Texas women who were denied abortion care despite experiencing life threatening pregnancy complications. This case, also filed on behalf of two Texas doctors, seeks clarity on the “medical emergency” exception in our state’s abortion bans. The Center for Reproductive Rights is also working closely with the Department of Justice and state Attorneys General to defend challenges to the FDA approval of mifepristone, a common medication used for abortion care, and led the development of a widely-circulated amicus brief supporting the FDA’s approval of this key medication.
In addition, the Foundation seeded the formation of the Sissy Farenthold Reproductive Justice Legal Defense Resource Project at The University of Texas School of Law’s Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. This initiative is serving as a resource hub for attorneys and advocates defending against state and state-sanctioned attacks on reproductive rights, as well as tracking criminal charges and prosecutions related to pregnancy and abortion care. It is also serving as the state partner for a national effort led by six legal services organizations aiming to provide specialized legal counsel for those seeking, providing or supporting abortion care. Among these organizations include Foundation grantees The Lawyering Project, which provides pro bono guidance to abortion funds and practical support organizations operating in Texas, and If/When/How, which operates the Repro Legal Defense Fund, covering bail and legal defense expenses for people who are investigated, arrested or prosecuted for self-managed abortion care.
According to Blake Rocap, Senior Fellow and Project Director of the Reproductive Justice Legal Defense Resource Project, “The Foundation’s dedication to funding legal services nationally and in Texas will ensure that all attempts to criminalize or impose civil liability on a person because of their pregnancy outcome or abortion decision will be met with well-resourced and high-quality legal resistance.”