Since a sleepy Supreme Court decided to punt on upholding precedent and let the onerous Texas SB8 (Senate Bill 8) become law in Texas last week, Texas women have swamped the abortion clinics (find abortionclinics.com) in surrounding states. Therefore, Texans seeking abortion overwhelm other states because they have no other choice.
The preciseness of the law that went into effect on September 1st in Texas outlaws all abortions in Texas past 6 weeks. That’s barely enough time for anyone to figure out if they’re pregnant. But more vaguely, the law also deputizes any citizen bounty hunter to rat on someone who they think might have gotten an “illegal” abortion or file a report on any staff or abortion provider. The vagueness of this provision clearly shifts the enforcement to “any busybody” with absolutely no relationship to the pregnant person or to the clinic, without the need for any evidence.
As a result, abortion clinics in Texas are fearful of breaking the law and have virtually stopped totally providing abortions. Thus, causing Texans to travel to surrounding state clinics making them swamped with their own in-state patient load and now out-of-state patients.
Traveling to another state has its pitfalls. Patients have to get off of work. Need extra money for traveling on a bus, train, or plane or paying for gas if they drive. They’ll need to arrange and pay for extended childcare if they have children at home. Depending on how far along in the pregnancy they are they will most likely have to spend 1-2 nights in a hotel. Then there’s the cost of the abortion — usually $400 and up. For a person already with money, this is a mere inconvenience. But for unemployed or women that are barely making ends meet, this is a financial and logistical nightmare.
They will also need to take time to research, plan, schedule and prepare for the journey. As each week goes by, the abortion procedure becomes more specialized and more expensive.
According to Diane Derzis, the owner of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson Women’s Health Organization “This is just a small sampling of what will happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe. There will literally be women racing to the closest state to get abortions. It will be medical chaos.”
She adds: “The deluge will be unbelievable on all the clinics in the country. Is that the way we want to deliver healthcare? And on top of that, people are having to travel in a pandemic.”
To make matters worse, the abortion clinics in Louisiana are still reeling after Ida. Most of them don’t even have power and haven’t reopened. The clinic in Shreveport, Hope Medical Group for Women is open, but the others are completely closed down.
Lori Williams, Director of Little Rock Family Planning Services has also seen an increase in patients from Texas: “Our phone calls have increased 50-75%. We are expanding our days and trying to accommodate as many patients as we can. Traveling 5-8 hours 2-4 times is still impossible for many pregnant people. We are 5 hours from Dallas and 8 hours from Houston. We have a 3-day waiting period which may entail 2 trips. 30% of our patients are now from Texas. They are not yet, but they will be further along in a couple of weeks, and 2nd trimester cases will increase and will be a crisis in a month or two.”
States without a waiting period are probably getting more patients, but the travel expenses will be more expensive. Texans are having to call clinics all over the US to find one that best suits their circumstances. Thankfully, many clinics have special funds set up to help women pay for their abortions and some of their travel expenses, if they qualify.
As abortion clinics continue to struggle on a day-to-day basis, pro-choice legal strategists are kicking around strategies to counter this evil SB8 such as to Codify Roe V. Wade (https://www.vox.com/20930358/codify-roe-wade-womens-health-protection-act-supreme-court-nancy-pelosi-democrats), and AG Merrick Garland just announced a lawsuit from the Justice Department against the State of Texas (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/09/texas-abortion-ban-federal-challenge/).
But time is of the essence. The abortion clinics in Texas can only survive so long without seeing patients. There will be no turning back if this onerous law isn’t nipped in the bud immediately.
Texans seeking abortion overwhelm other states, but everyone can help support those in need — Go to National Abortion Hotline Fund and donate.