Women find alternative ways to abort despite Texas crackdown

The number of women leaving Texas for abortions has increased tenfold since lawmakers banned the procedure after early pregnancy, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin.

The findings, coupled with a huge increase in online orders for abortion pills, suggest widespread state repression has not yet led to a sharp drop in procedures. While abortions in Texas clinics fell by about half after the new restrictions took effect in September, many women were still seeking to end their unwanted pregnancies through other, often more difficult, routes. .

The law “did not reduce the need for abortion care in Texas. On the contrary, it reduced access in the state,” said Dr. Kari White, principal investigator of the university’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project.

More than 5,500 Texans visited abortion clinics in six surrounding states between September and December of last year, according to the study. This represents almost 1,400 trips per month, compared to around 130 per month during the same period in 2019. The latest count is likely an undercount, as some clinics did not participate and the study did not include trips to states farther from Texas.

The new state law, known as Senate Bill 8, prohibits abortions after fetal heart activity is detected, at around six weeks gestation. It is enforced by private citizens, who can sue anyone who helps a woman break the law, from a doctor to a taxi driver, for at least $10,000 in damages. The law makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The law was initially upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, opening the door for other anti-abortion states to copy Texas as the High Court considers scrapping federal abortion protections later this year.

Abortion rights advocates are already bracing for states to cut access in more than two dozen southern and midwestern states, and providers are rushing to build clinics in northern and coastal states. more favorable to the right to abortion.

The new findings from Texas may be a first image of the coming scramble for women in other states. The vast majority of trips out of Texas were to Oklahoma and New Mexico, where clinics are on average several hundred miles from most Texans. Oklahoma has its own “trigger” abortion ban if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling protecting the right to abortion until about 23 weeks of pregnancy.

Women interviewed in the study said they faced big hurdles in seeking abortions since the law took effect, including delays at clinics inside and outside of Texas. . One in four said they had visited crisis pregnancy centers, which often discourage women from having abortions. The researchers interviewed a total of 65 women.


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A 23-year-old South Texas woman said she first went to a pregnancy center because it offered free ultrasounds, then went through a series of tests and referrals medical conditions that had pushed her past the six-week mark. She ended up driving 14 hours to get an abortion in New Mexico.

“At the pregnancy resource center they were like, ‘Hey, you know what, there’s a weak heartbeat… We’re going to send you to the OB/GYN team, so you can move on. and start with [prenatal care]the woman said, as reported by the study authors. She is identified only by her first name. “Right after that, I went to the obstetrician/gynecologist and had the ultrasound or the transvaginal ultrasound. They say, ‘Yeah, there’s nothing here, they lied to you.’ »

Data published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed a threefold increase in daily inquiries to Aid Access, an Austrian nonprofit that ships and provides information about abortion pills. This resulted in approximately 900 requests per month between October and December.

Anti-abortion activists have acknowledged the changing landscape and say there is still work to be done to block new means of abortion.

“What we’re seeing in Texas right now is kind of a preview of the post-Roe world,” said John Seago, political director of Texas Right to Life. “Even if elective abortion is not completely outlawed, we are beginning to see the factors that will be part of that state whenever abortion is made completely illegal.”

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