Texas GOP's gross delusion: Having to drive 250 miles for healthcare's just a "manageable inconvenience"

Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott proves how out of touch he is -- and how little he cares about Texas women

Published October 10, 2014 1:21PM (EDT)

  (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

On Thursday, Texas attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott filed a memorandum with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of HB 2, the restrictive antiabortion law that has shut down 80 percent of the state's abortion clinics and effectively deprived tens of thousands of women access to reproductive care. In the memo, Abbott contends that the law does not place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions, but is actually just a manageable "inconvenience."

The memo argues that "the vast majority of Texas residents" live within "comfortable driving distance (150 miles)" of an abortion clinic," reports the Huffington Post, and for those who don't -- who live in, say, the Rio Grande Valley, where there are no longer any clinics -- the added miles aren't such a huge deal: "abortion can be accessed by driving approximately 230-250 miles -- an inconvenience, but still a manageable one."

Manageable for whom? Certainly not the average minimum-wage earner in South Texas, who makes under $20,000 per year, or the two-thirds of women seeking abortions who already have children. See, those people -- especially the minimum-wage earners with children -- have certain responsibilities, financial or otherwise, that make it a little bit less than "manageable" to drive 250 miles for healthcare.

First, there's the issue of taking time off work for medical appointments -- two days, actually, as mandated by another restrictive Texas law -- and suffering lost wages, which low-income women often need desperately. Then there's the issue of childcare, another huge cost for women who can find it all. But there's also the question of transportation, because public transit sure isn't going to get someone from the Valley 500 miles roundtrip across the state; a woman must have a car to traverse that minimum "comfortable driving distance" of 150 miles and the extra hundred more, which takes a total of 7 hours. She must have the money to stay overnight at a hotel between her two clinic visits, too. On average, the entire trip, plus the procedure, costs over $1,100 on average according to an RH Reality Check tabulation.

Hmmm, that sure does sound inconvenient!

Abbott's defense of HB 2 is perhaps one of the best illustrations yet of the flagrant lack of critical thought and basic human empathy that underly the Texas GOP's continued attack on reproductive rights. From a position of privilege, HB 2's restrictions no doubt look like mere inconveniences to be overcome with readily available disposable income and a little vacation time, and maybe a call to the babysitter. This is the only position from which Abbott sees the damage HB 2 has wrought, clearly, and it reveals more than one shortcoming on the candidate's part. Abbott has not only proven his limited ability to comprehend a reality outside his own -- he has also indicated how few shits he could possibly give about Texas women.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has joined him. On the same day Abbott filed his Supreme Court memo, the appellate court issued a refusal to reconsider its ruling on HB 2's admitting privileges requirement, which was accompanied by a fiery (and lengthy) dissent from Judge James L. Dennis. In his dissent, Dennis asserts that the Texas law threatens "to annihilate the constituted protections afforded women" by Roe v. Wade and represents a "perversion of the undue burden standard."

Indeed it is, but neither Abbott nor the conservative judges of the Fifth Circuit seem to be able to grasp what an undue burden is. A federal court has already ruled that "inconvenience, even severe inconvenience, is not an undue burden," but that only applies to some. What is inconvenient for the most privileged is an impossibility for the least -- and impossibility is almost certainly an undue burden.

By Jenny Kutner

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