SHREEVEPORT, Louisiana (AP) – A 33-year-old woman from Texas traveled alone at four o’clock in the morning to get to an abortion clinic in Louisiana for a consultation. She had originally planned to sleep in her car, but the defense team helped to book a hotel room.
Single and raising three children between the ages of 5 and 13, she worried that adding a child now would take time, food, money, and a place away from her three children. She is unemployed and, she says, without the help of groups offering safe abortions, would likely look for another way to terminate the pregnancy.
“If you cannot get rid of the child, what are you going to do next? You will try to get rid of it yourself. So I think, “What could I have done? What home remedies could I do to get rid of this baby, to have a miscarriage, to abort it? ‘And it shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have done this. I shouldn’t have thought this way, felt this way, none of this.
“We need to be heard. This must change. This is not true.”
She was one of more than a dozen women who arrived Saturday at Hope Women’s Medical Unit, a one-story brick building with closed windows south of downtown Shreveport. Some came alone. Others were accompanied by a friend or partner. Some brought their children because they could not get babysitting.
Everyone was eager to terminate their pregnancies, and most were from neighboring Texas, which has the country’s strictest abortion law. It bans abortion when heart activity is detected about six weeks before many women even know they are pregnant. He makes no exceptions for rape or incest. As a result, abortion clinics in neighboring states are overrun with women from Texas.
The women agreed to speak to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity so that they could be open about their experiences.
Like many others, the 33-year-old Texas mother said she tried to schedule an abortion closer to home, but she went too far. By the time she arrived at the abortion clinic on Saturday, she was only nine weeks old and had to have a surgical abortion rather than take medication. She said the trial left her angry at the Texas politicians who passed the law.
“If I had to leave this child, it is not known what would have happened. I probably would have gone crazy, but they do not understand it, – she said emotionally.
The 25-year-old woman made the 70-mile trip south of Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border. She said it was five weeks before she realized she was pregnant, and she knew it would be impossible to schedule the required two visits to the Texas clinic. By the time she was able to make an appointment at Shreveport, her pregnancy was too late for a medical abortion.
“Fortunately, I found out about it, because then I could still take pills, not surgery,” she said.
While she was at the clinic, her husband waited for hours in the car with her young son, who is still very young and still breastfeeding. They had no one to watch him.
Texas law has fluctuated between courts for several weeks. On Monday, the Biden administration again called on the courts to suspend it. The effort came three days after a federal appeals court reinstated the law following a harsh lower court ruling that last week created a short 48-hour period in which Texas abortion providers again rushed to deliver patients.
The anti-abortion campaign fueling the law aims to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, where anti-abortion opponents hope that the Trump-led Conservative coalition will end constitutional abortion rights established by the historic 1973 Rowe ruling. against Wade.
When most of the women entered the clinic’s parking lot, they were greeted by anti-abortion protesters, mostly from East Texas, who regularly travel to Shreveport.
John Powers, 44, a machinist in Jacksonville, Texas, said he usually takes a nearly two-hour ride twice a month to get any woman to change her mind. In 13 years of protesting in front of clinics, he said, he convinced two women not to have abortions, which he calls “twists and turns.”
“I’m not going to say this happens a lot,” said Powers, who has six children and who supports any law that makes it difficult for women to have an abortion. “Let’s say I never have another turn, this child who can now grow up, get married and have children of her own, go to school and possibly become a journalist. It’s worth it, it was worth it for me. “
Once at the clinic, women are greeted by staff who express confidence and understanding. The clinic director hugged one woman, walking her to the end of the clinic. The TV in the corner of the waiting room is set to Black Entertainment Television. A separate “cold room” with soft music and large leather sofas allows patients to relax before the procedure.
Many of the women’s stories concern Catalyn Pittman, a clinic administrator who began working at an abortion clinic 30 years ago. She said she recently spoke to a Texas mother who was trying to have an abortion on her 13-year-old daughter, who was sexually abused.
“She’s a child,” Pittman said. “She doesn’t have to be on the road for hours to get here. It’s just heartbreaking. “
Before Texas law went into effect, Pittman said about 20% of her clients were from Texas, mostly from the eastern part of the state, near a three-state region called Arc-La-Tex, with a population of about 1.5 million people and Shreveport. in its geographic center. Now that number is approaching 60%, and women come hundreds of miles from Austin, Houston or San Antonio.
According to the latest figures from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, about 55,440 abortions were performed in Texas in 2017, although some of these patients may have been women from out of state. Gutmacher said that abortions in Texas account for more than 6% of all abortions in the United States.
It is estimated that about 1,000 women in Texas seek abortions a week, and clinics in neighboring states report overcrowding.
In August, Trust Women in Oklahoma City, about three hours from Dallas and Fort Worth, saw about 11 patients from Texas. In September, after Texas law came into effect, that number rose to 110 and the clinic’s phones are ringing constantly, said Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women, which also operates the clinic in Wichita, Kansas.
“Many of them try to literally drive all night and then show up at 8 am for a meeting without rest,” Tong said. “It’s just not a good situation to go to outpatient surgery after driving all evening and think that after that you can just go home.”
Texas law and the difficulty of scheduling appointments out of state also force women to wait longer, Tong said, which means more costs, more risk, and fewer options for termination.
Lawmakers in some of the states surrounding Texas are hoping to enact similar legislation that will prevent most abortions. Oklahoma Senator Julie Daniels wrote or sponsored four separate measures to further restrict this practice. All four laws are challenged in court.
When asked to answer the Texan women, Daniels replied that her calculation was straightforward.
“The calculation is simple and straightforward: an unborn child is a child. This is life. It’s just like that, and therefore nothing is more difficult than this, ”she said. “First of all, I am concerned about the life of the unborn child.”