With Abortions On Hold, Some Texans Say It's Hard To Be Hopeful
It’s now illegal to get — or give — an abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy in Texas.
Planned Parenthood clinics in South Texas have stopped providing any abortions as the new law went into effect Wednesday that bans the procedure after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus.
“The only thing we can do right now is pause abortion care entirely as we wait for this legal challenge we have mounted to play out,” President and CEO of PPST Jeffrey Hons told TPR’s The Source.
Many people don’t know they are pregnant within the first six weeks. The two other Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state — Gulf Coast and Greater Texas — will still provide abortions in the rare cases when a pregnancy is detected in that early timeframe, as the law permits.
The law, Senate Bill 8, was championed by anti-abortion Republicans and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
I’m proud that today Texas becomes the MOST pro-life state in the country. Life is a precious gift from God, and I’m PROUD to live in a state that defends the right of the unborn.— Ronny Jackson (@RonnyJacksonTX) September 1, 2021
Texas is the first state to pass this kind of ban into law; similar bans from other states were blocked. The U.S. Supreme Court did not block Texas’ law before it went into effect, as many advocates for abortion rights had hoped. This was a victory for abortion rights opponents, who for nearly five decades have been seeking to reverse Roe vs. Wade.
The law also gives anyone the right to sue an abortion provider in Texas who they allege has violated the law, making it all but impossible for such clinics to operate in the Lone Star State.
Reactions across Texas:
In Houston, Keni Alade, 17, was one of about 40 people who attended a midday protest near Houston's City Hall that was organized by the ACLU of Texas, Planned Parenthood, Texas Freedom Network and other groups that advocate for abortion rights.
“It’s taking away a freedom, a confidence that we had to just make our own choices,” Keni Alade said. “It really shows me how little the people in front of me care.”
Another 17-year-old, Andrea Gonzalez, said the law feels like a huge setback.
“It’s hard to really be hopeful for the future when things like this happen,” said Gonzalez.
Blair Wallace with the ACLU of Texas said they are relying on the courts to “do their job and uphold our constitutional right to abortion.”
“We’re gonna win, I know that our fight is righteous and justice always prevails,” said Wallace.
Flor Hoill, 42, called Republicans “hypocritical.”
“They are passing a ban on abortions, pretending to care for the life of a child, while they’re sending children to schools without any mask mandates,” said Hoill. “It’s frightening because we have come a long way for women to have any kind of rights here. They may pass laws that restrict voting for women, we’re already one step closer to that here in Texas with SB1 passing.”
There was one counter-protestor at the event wearing a #ProLifeStrong shirt and playing loud music.
Clinics in North Texas, like Whole Woman’s Health Alliance in Fort Worth, were performing abortions until as late as 11:56 p.m. on Aug. 31.
“Our waiting rooms were filled with patients and their loved ones in all four of our clinics yesterday. We had a physician who has worked with us for decades in tears as he tried to complete the abortions for all the folks who were waiting in our Fort Worth waiting room,” said Amy Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health.
Staffers at Planned Parenthood Greater Texas, based in Dallas, are also worried about abortion seekers having to travel far to access abortions, and how those costs can add up.
“This is even if they can access additional funding resources for travel costs of the procedure. Lodging, food and again childcare as they're traveling outside the state that impacts their families and their lives,” said call center manager Vanessa Rodriguez.
The North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens says the state law is motivating them to hone in on their message of teen pregnancy prevention. The nonprofit seeks to normalize conversations about sexual health and provide resources to teens and parents to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy.
"We're just yelling it even louder, with more emphasis about the need for sex education," said Dr. Nina Bates, NTARuPT ’s Director of Programs.
"We're positioning ourselves to be of service. Educational interventions need to come early, and they need to come often, again, just honing into that idea of prevention."
For the San Antonio Coalition For Life, it’s business as usual.
The coalition's executive director, Catherine Nix, said the group will still offer “sidewalk counseling” to women outside three local abortion clinics.
"They are not going to know that this bill has taken effect. That this law is in place. They’re going to go in thinking that this is birth control. That they're able to get an abortion, and then they're going to be past — possibly past — the six week mark in which a heartbeat is then detected,” said Nix.
Senate Bill 8 was often called the “heartbeat bill” by supporters, as it effectively outlaws abortions after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus.
Nix added that she believes local abortion clinics will still direct women to out-of-state locations that perform the procedure.
Statements from organizations that support abortion rights have said pregnant Texans will be forced to flee the state to receive care.
“Today (Wednesday) thousands of Texans are sitting at their kitchen tables, trying to crunch the numbers to figure out whether they can travel hundreds of miles out of state for time-sensitive health care,” a statement from the ACLU of Texas said.
Representatives from other organizations noted neighboring states have also adopted abortion restrictions.
“The average one-way driving distance for pregnant Texans seeking an abortion will now increase 20-fold, from 12 miles to 248 miles, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute,” said Rupali Sharma, Senior Counsel and Director at the Lawyering Project.
“Many neighboring states — where pregnant Texans will be forced to travel for care — have existing abortion restrictions that will compound the already-complex web of barriers to abortion care for those who have the means to travel.”
Lucio Vasquez, Haya Panjwani, Alejandra Martinez, Brian Kirkpatrick and Bri Kirkham contributed to this story.