With Abortion Massively Banned in Texas, an Oklahoma Clinic Is Inundated
Oklahoma City – In a strong wind Tuesday morning, the parking lot outside a small brick building on the south side of Oklahoma City was filling up rapidly. The first to arrive, a red truck, was from Texas shortly before 8 a.m. So was the second and third.
The building houses one of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics, and at least two-thirds of its scheduled patients now come from Texas. So many, in fact, it’s trying to hire more staff members and doctors to keep up. The increase is the result of a new law in Texas that bans abortions after about six weeks, a very early stage of pregnancy. As soon as the measure went into effect this month, Texans began to travel elsewhere, and Oklahoma near Dallas has become a major destination.
“We had every line lit for eight hours,” said Jennifer Reines, a front desk phone worker at the Trust Women’s Oklahoma City clinic, describing the first week the measure was in place.
The effects of the new law have been profound: Texas residents with unwanted pregnancies have been forced to make decisions quickly, and some have chosen to travel long distances to have an abortion. As clinics fill up in surrounding states, appointments are being scheduled for later dates, making the procedures more expensive. Other women have to carry their pregnancies to end.
Marva Sadler, senior director of clinic services at Whole Women’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said she believes many patients travel to other states to arrange for child care or work without losing their jobs. Wasn’t able to take the time off.
“I think most women are being punished for being a parent,” she said.
The legislation is the latest in a string of successes by the anti-abortion movement, which over the years has pushed for more conservative judges and control over state legislatures. Now, the Supreme Court is preparing to take on the abortion case – former President Donald J. Trump’s conservative appointees—the first to be argued before the court with all three—have the potential to completely remove federal protections for abortion.
In Texas, the new state law effectively accomplishes this, at least for now.
Samara was just five weeks pregnant when she lay on a examining table in Houston to have an ultrasound. This was August 31, a day before the law came into force. She had heard about it on the news and knew abortion was banned after cardiac activity was detected. But when the doctor did the ultrasound, there was no sound, and she was asked to come back the next day for her procedure.
When she returned, and lay again in a darkened room, staring at a group of paper dancers hanging from the ceiling, the doctor had a different result.
“He said ‘Take a deep breath’ and Badoom, Badoom, Badoom, all you hear is a heartbeat,” said Samrah, 22. “In the same breath, I was crossing my fingers, the bus came out, and I would coo, and scream, and scream.”
She walked into the hallway, her mind racing, and saw other women there as well.
“We were all in the hallway crying like, ‘What are we going to do?
The answer to many women in her situation has been in a race to get an abortion in a different state. About half of the patients at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La., are now from Texas, up about a fifth before the law. In Little Rock Family Planning Services, in Arkansas, Texas patients now make up 19 percent of the caseload, compared to less than 2 percent in August.
Getting an abortion in most cases does not require two trips to the Oklahoma clinic, so it has been a common choice. Trust Women had 11 Texas patients in August; There have been 110 so far in September. Patients come from as far away as Galveston and Corpus Christi. Some people drive at night to make an appointment in the morning. High demand from Texas means the clinic’s schedule is packed for weeks. Last week, the earliest appointments were made for mid-October.
Samara, who requested that her last name not be published, arrived last Monday from Beaumont, a city near Houston where she lives with her partner and their 2-year-old son.
That said, the news of her pregnancy jeopardized the life it had created for her.
His financial condition had stabilized recently. He had got a customer service job. His partner was driving the van for medical service. They left their family home and moved to their apartment. His son has his own room. He bought new furniture: a sectional and a bed.
“This was our first time really buying a new out-of-the-box mattress, not Facebook or something,” she said.
She took pride in being able to give her son attention, toys, a stable home, which she said she never called herself. But she couldn’t afford to do it for two. “I don’t want to be that parent,” said Samira, whose mother was a teenager when she was born. “I don’t want to bring my child into something I can’t take care of, because they don’t deserve it. I grew up in that kind of reality. And I know what it does for people. “
Samra said she had an abortion once for similar reasons, a year before her son was born. She said she made an appointment on Tuesday to get an IUD soon after her procedure.
As states pass more abortion restrictions, poor women continue to grapple with their effects. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, half of American women who had abortions in 2014 lived in poverty, a double share from 1994, when nearly a quarter of women who had abortions were low-income. Theories include why demographic changes, increased funding for abortions for low-income women, and why high-income women have more access to highly effective contraception.
The longer women have to wait, the more expensive their procedures become. The cost of abortion at Trust Women ranges from $650 for the early stages to $2,350 for the later stages. Financial aid is also available.
Sarah, who worked in a roofing company, found out that she was 13 weeks pregnant on 23 August. But then the law went into effect, and she rushed to find a clinic in another state.
“It’s just been a scramble to get noticed, especially since I ran out of time so quickly,” Sarah, 21, said, adding that her last name was not published to protect her privacy. had gone.
She finally had a miscarriage on September 20 at an Oklahoma City clinic. He had to stop paying for the car to cover his share of the $1,550 fee. His partner, a police officer, split the cost and drove him three hours from Dallas where they live.
Understand Texas Abortion Laws
She said that she was alone for some time. Her mother died in a car accident when she was 9, and her father died of cancer when she was 19. And though she feels a lot more financially stable now than she did in her teens – she was putting herself in college studying criminal justice until the coronavirus pandemic. – She said that she could not support a child.
“I have to stop my life,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to school.”
Sarah had never been pregnant before, but she said she knew her decision was the right one. Still, it was difficult. In the weeks she awaited her appointment, she said it was impossible not to think about what was growing inside her. After her pregnancy-confirming ultrasound, which she received at a center run by an anti-abortion group, a woman typed ‘Hi, Mommy’ and ‘Hi, it’s me’ on the screen and gave the printout to Sarah.
“It’s hard not to have the instinct to bond with it,” Sarah said. “And just to remind yourself every day, you can’t do that. Like there’s no time for you right now. So that’s been the hardest part.”
Trust Women also forms anti-abortion groups. An RV run by anti-abortion activists that sometimes advertises free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds at the Rancho Village Food Mart.
The cashier there, 23-year-old Raymundo Marquez, said his brother, the owner of the shop, gave the permission. But Mr Marquez’s feelings are conflicting. He believes abortion is wrong: He didn’t consider it when his girlfriend got pregnant in high school. But he said it was hard to judge anyone else for doing so, because he knows there are children who are homeless and neglected.
“It’s sad either way,” he said.
By Tuesday afternoon, a demonstrator in a green floral jacket and green flats was praying and looking out to the clinic’s security booth. Inside, Louis Padilla, the security guard, was watching him. He is a regular, and sometimes he goes out to argue with her.
Mr Padilla said he was Catholic and Republican, but after working there for some time he was won over by the clinic. That said, each woman has her own story, and who are the men like her who will judge her? He mows the lawn of the clinic, flags it and sometimes fixes the equipment as the repairmen refuse to come to the abortion clinic. He had also bought a drone with his own money to watch the protesters outside.
The situation in Texas may be temporary. A hearing scheduled for October 1 will give opponents of the law another chance to persuade a judge to suspend it. But other restrictions are looming. Oklahoma has five, including a law that requires abortion providers to be board-certified Obstetrician. If it takes effect as scheduled on November 1, four of the eight doctors licensed to work at Trust Women can no longer do so.
Samra entered the Oklahoma clinic with the help of a financial aid fund, which included plane tickets for her and her son. Her abortion was also covered. But his partner there had to pay his own way. He was fired, he said, when he asked for time. And he lost several days’ salary.
She doesn’t believe that the people who passed the law considered the consequences for women like her. Those officers, he said, “go to their jobs in their car, which has no problem starting, with a tire that isn’t flat.”
Meanwhile, he and his partner and their son will move back to Texas out of a real fear that they won’t be able to pay the rent for October.
“I have to go home and figure out what to do next month, and next month is in a couple of weeks. Like what I’m going to do, you know?”
Claire Toeniskoetter Contributed reporting. Sheilagh McNeil contributed to the research.
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