Shock, disbelief, panic: Living under the Texas abortion ban
October 15, 2021 9:02 am
When Trisha* discovered she was pregnant in May of last year, the nearest abortion provider was more than 482km (300 miles) away in Fort Worth, Texas.
The 27-year-old told Al Jazeera she didn’t feel comfortable discussing her options with anyone in her conservative hometown or family – so at almost eight weeks pregnant, she drove herself to the abortion clinic.
After spending $150 in gas to get to Fort Worth, she cried alone in the parking lot of a Whole Woman’s Health building before walking in to seek the procedure.
“It breaks my heart to know that there are people in both my community and my family that would dehumanise women for seeking out these services without knowing the circumstances,” she said. “There are other people who are in a place of fear and uncertainty without privilege and resources to find a way out.”
Now, after Texas passed the United States’s most restrictive abortion law, Trisha said she may have had to make a different choice had the legislation been on the books when she needed an abortion. “Between having to spend even more money to travel out of state and get a hotel room, plus recruiting someone to go with me, I may have tried to induce at home,” she said.
The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 8 in May, with supporters calling it a “measure to protect the lives of the unborn”.
Many advocates of reproductive rights assumed the law would be blocked in the courts as similar legislation had been in the past. But the US Supreme Court declined to act in August, and in October a court injunction that paused the law was swiftly overturned after Texas appealed for it to be reinstated.
That means the legislation, which effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and allows any citizen to sue anyone who provides or helps with abortion services, is in effect. Still, the broad ban on abortion services hasn’t stopped patients from seeking help.
Many still show up at clinics, assuming the media exaggerated or that they misunderstood the law, said Marva Sadler, director of clinical operations at Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider that operates four clinics across Texas.
But the clinics, bound by the new law, are forced to turn people away. “They come in with a glimmer of hope that we can help them,” Sadler told Al Jazeera. “There’s a moment of shock, of disbelief that this is really a thing – then a moment of panic over what to do next.”
A similar feeling struck Jessy Lieck, a 30-year-old law student in Lubbock, Texas.
“Once SB8 went into effect I panicked, as I’m sure a lot of people did,” said Lieck. “If my birth control fails or if I’m raped and it’s past six weeks, I’m going to be forced to carry a rapist’s child, which is incredibly traumatic.”