When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) into law in May, I felt an unwelcome sense of déjà vu. In January of 2016, I was dialing every phone number I could find, trying to locate a clinic where I could receive abortion care in Austin, where I live. After many phone calls, some of which I accidentally made to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, I finally found one of the last open abortion clinics and got an appointment. I was seven weeks pregnant, and their schedule was packed; the earliest opening they had was more than two weeks later. This was the wreckage of House Bill 2, a restrictive abortion law passed in 2013 that forced approximately half of all abortion clinics in the state to close. The U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately overturn the law in June 2016, just months after I had my abortion, bringing relief to Texans seeking basic health care.
This month, Texans like me hoped our rights might be protected by the Supreme Court again. Instead, they let us down by allowing the most restrictive abortion law in the country to take effect. Now, in my work with a fund supporting Texans’ access to abortion, I’m hearing every day from panicked, confused patients who are trying to get an appointment as I did in 2016, and facing wait times as long as a month — too late for many to access care under SB 8. I’ve been reminding some patients to do what I did: keep calling each day to see if any cancellations open up earlier appointments. And then we work together to come up with a plan for out of state care to avoid delaying their abortion further.
SB 8 bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy — before many people even know they’re pregnant; roughly 85 to 90 percent of people who get abortions are at least six weeks into pregnancy. This law has decimated abortion access in the state, and I’m watching it happen in real time.
This law is cruel, and it’s violating.
I’ve been hearing from many people with housing insecurity who are struggling to quickly figure out how to travel hundreds of miles out of state to access abortion care. And it was already difficult to access abortion as a Texan, especially for people with low incomes, Black women, Indigenous folks, people of color, undocumented folks, our queer and trans communities, disabled people, and youth. SB 8 is racist, classist, and ableist, and these communities are the first to experience the impacts of abortion restrictions. Some folks living in Southern Texas have no way to even leave the state because of border patrol checkpoints. Getting abortion care is hard for everyone in Texas, but now it can be outright impossible, and will continue to be hardest for these Texans.
While this assault on our rights would be terrible at any time, it’s especially dangerous during a pandemic. Texans were already forced to jump through these political hoops last year when our governor deemed abortion non-essential and banned it for over a month at the beginning of COVID-19. Patients were turned away from the clinic at the last second and forced to travel as far as Oklahoma and Colorado, much like now. At a time when Gov. Abbott should be protecting Texans, he is more concerned with regulating our bodies and putting our health and lives at risk — again. He is more concerned with making sure I don’t have an abortion — by all means necessary — than he is with protecting the two children I have by not requiring masks inside public schools.
Though things may feel isolating and scary right now, I want Texans to remember that abortion is still legal in all 50 states. SB 8 may restrict abortion to before around six weeks, but make sure to keep in touch with abortion funds and advocates; things can often change quickly and misinformation surrounding SB 8 is spreading. We are here to help you sort through the confusion and get the resources you need.
Although it was difficult to access abortion in Texas, the staff at my clinic and the abortion fund that helped me were wonderful, and that was powerful for me. Everything I am as a person now is because I had an abortion. It allowed me to be the parent I wanted to be, led me to a career I love, and it was the first time I really understood what it meant to be a supporter of abortion rights. We may have a right to a legal abortion, but that doesn’t mean it’s accessible. Under SB 8, that’s more true than ever, but we are going to continue to fight for our right to safe and legal abortion, regardless of our zip code, and regardless of how much money we make, no matter what.
Follow Paige on Twitter at @palexa_dria