Texans reeling from impact of new abortion laws
November 6th, 2013
Since last week's surprise ruling from the federal circuit court that closed nearly a third of Texas' abortion clinics, abortion fund volunteers have been scrambling to get resources where they're needed most. In a state with an area so large that it would engulf most of Europe, this is no small undertaking.
"We've never seen anything quite as dramatic as this," says Megan Peterson, NNAF's Deputy Director, in an interview with the Texas Observer. "With so many clinics closing so suddenly, the loss is huge."
Normally, the Texas Equal Access Fund (TEA Fund) in north Texas works with over a dozen clinics. They're down to five--including one in Louisiana and one in New Mexico--and several major cities are left without a single provider.
The sudden loss of clinics left those who had appointments this week in particularly dire straits: not only are they forced to find new medical providers, possibly hundreds of miles away, but the clock is reset on the mandatory waiting period. Furthermore, to comply with Texas' 2011 ultrasound law, many patients will have to get another ultrasound at their own expense. "Everyone who calls us today needs more help than before. People are really desperate now," says the TEA Fund's Merritt Tierce.
Volunteers with the Lilith Fund, which serves central and south Texas, echo Tierce, reporting that clients faced with additional travel times, uncertain of when they'll be able to reschedule their appointments, are just giving up. Many are in a race with the clock and pushing up against new legal limits on how late abortion would be allowed, forced to either travel to another state or abandon their plans entirely. As we know, a woman who is denied an abortion she wants is statistically likely to end up living below the poverty line in the future.
Although last week's federal court ruling came suddenly, we have been preparing for months to help Texas abortion funds expand their capacity in anticipation of these new restrictions. We are working with groups on the ground to navigate the logistics of getting emergency transportation and lodging networks in place, and making sure that anyone who needs help knows where to turn. Those efforts just became a lot more urgent this week.