I’m not a big fan of state boycotts. They’re such a blunt instrument. They risk hurting ordinary people just trying to make a living, including people in the very category you’re trying to help. (I’ll never forget the e-mail I got from the gay owner of Replacements, a wonderful north Carolina seller of china and other table ware, pleading with online customers not to boycott his store over the anti-gay “bathroom bill.“) Boycotting conventions and tourism can mean you ding the rare blue dot in a red state. And then there is the question of whether boycotts reinforce the target state’s orneriness and sense of persecution.
But Texas has gone too far. SB 8, also known as the abortion ban—because that’s what it is—is so wrong, so nakedly misogynistic, so ignorant, and so weird that you wonder if the mostly male and white politicians who promoted it even understood its provisions. Governor Abbott plans to make Texas rape-free, so no need for a rape exception. He also says six weeks is plenty of time for a woman to make up her mind about whether to end a pregnancy—ignoring the fact that the time limit is not six weeks from when she learns she is pregnant, but six weeks from her last menstrual period—in other words, a maximum of two weeks, assuming she realizes she’s pregnant when her period is one day late. Who does that? Before SB 8, abortion access in Texas had already been decimated by restrictions and clinic closings, so even this hypothetical supersensitive and hypervigilant pregnant woman would have had trouble making the necessary arrangements in time. Now it is virtually impossible, because the law is to be enforced by private citizens bringing civil suits against those who “aid and abet” abortion, and clinics are ceasing abortion provision. They know anti-abortion activists are watching them, just waiting for an opportunity to cash in on the minimum $10,000 reward for a successful suit, all the while driving the clinic out of business.
Now, if ever, is the time for corporations, entertainers, sports teams and other powerful people to step up to the plate. That’s what happened in 2015, when Mike Pence signed into law Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act permitting businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. It was loudly protested by organizations from the NBA to the Disciples of Christ, as well as nine CEOS from big corporations. Several businesses threatened to cancel plans to expand in the state; Wilco canceled a concert. Within a week the state legislature passed a bill basically nullifying RFRA. Similarly, a huge furor, complete with boycott, forced North Carolina to essentially nullify its 2017 “bathroom bill” that rescinded protections for LGBT people and required people to use the bathroom that accorded with their birth sex.
The Texas abortion ban affects so many people—it’s the second-most-populous state, after all, with more than 6 million women of childbearing age—you’d think there would be more of a pushback. Where is it? So far, Lyft and Uber have said they will pay legal fees for any of their drivers accused of transporting an abortion patient. But it’s a safe bet that this is not likely to happen on any large scale, since Texas clinics are not performing post-six-week abortions, and the law applies only to abortions within Texas: Driving someone to the airport is not a crime. Match.com and Bumble, a Texas-based dating app, are both creating funds to help with abortion access, while the software company Salesforce says it will help employees move out of state. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont made a video urging companies to move to the Nutmeg State, “a family-friendly state that respects women.”
It’s not a lot. Maybe people were blindsided for the moment—up until the last minute, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume the Supreme Court would intervene, since that’s what it has done before with laws that flagrantly violate Roe v Wade, and this one in particular is so unprecedented in leaving enforcement entirely to private citizens. But we’ve had almost two weeks to wake up. Where is Hollywood, the supposed capital of all things leftish? If every star who had an abortion or paid for their girlfriend to have one used their voice and their wallet, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Where are the companies and professional associations and universities canceling convention plans? The in-state universities promising to ferry pregnant students to New Mexico or California? If any zillionaires are donating pots of gold to help Texas women, I haven’t heard about it.
I try not to be paranoid, but it sure looks like women are getting short shrift here—especially the low-income women who will have the hardest time traveling. Roe v Wade may be almost half a century old, and abortion may be widely practiced—indeed, it’s basic to contemporary American life—but the stigma is still there, for both the procedure and the women who use it. So here we are, with neighbors encouraged to report neighbors, as in the USSR and East Germany. And because it’s America, they can make good money doing it.
With SB 8 following a crazy new gun law and mandatory mask ban, the Lone Star State has more than earned the cold shoulder. If Texas wants its citizens to cash in on anti-abortion sentiment, they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to pay for it.
If you’d like to help, you can donate here with one click to 10 Texas abortion funds.