The abrupt illegality of most abortions in Texas means more than just an exponential surge in patients spilling over to neighboring states’ clinics — though that’s happening too.
It also means patients who are stressed over missing many days of work or finding lodging or maneuvering the long trip out-of-state with children in tow, and without the support system they may have had back home.
“We’re dealing with both a much higher volume and with patients who are in crisis at a much higher rate,” Emily Wales, interim president & CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told TPM.
And while the states near Texas may not have the draconian six-week ban that the Supreme Court allowed to stand before it hears the case, many are still hostile to abortion rights. Oklahoma requires an ultrasound and 72-hour waiting period. Kansas has a 24-hour waiting period and both private insurance (without an additionally purchased rider) and plans in the state’s health exchange only cover the procedure in cases of life endangerment. Arkansas has a 72-hour waiting period that only begins after an in-person, state-directed counseling session aimed at dissuading the patient from having the abortion. NewslettersGet TPM in your inbox, twice weekly.SUBSCRIBE
And all of those states are actively trying to pass more restrictions.
That leaves what few abortion providers have thus far survived years of onslaught from Republican-led legislatures with an enormous, double-pronged task: to cope with the droves of patients coming from Texas while preparing as best they can for attempts to further restrict abortion rights made with renewed vigor in their own states.
“We’re in a trial run for a post-Roe world right now,” Jessie Hill, associate dean and professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, told TPM.
A New ‘Level Of Intensity’
Clinics in Texas’ neighboring states, already few in number due to sustained state-level efforts to heap restrictions upon them, are being overrun with patients further along than the six week threshold currently allowed under state law. That’s before many women know they’re pregnant, and precludes 85 to 90 percent of procedures done in Texas, according to lawyers for the clinics in court documents.
“We saw over 300 Texans last month just in our Oklahoma facilities,” Wales said. “We saw just a little more than that throughout all of last year.”
“In August of this year, we saw one Texas patient in our Wichita clinic. In September, we saw 51,” Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, interim communication director at Trust Women, which has clinics in Oklahoma City and Wichita, told TPM.
The influx is being acutely felt in services that orbit the providers too. Fund Texas Choice is a non-profit organization that helps subsidize the costs associated with obtaining an abortion: travel, lodging, meals.
“We funded an average of $400 per client before SB 8,” Sarah, Fund Texas Choice’s manager of programs, told TPM of the six-week abortion law. “We’ve seen an increase in more high-dollar clients who cost more money to stay longer and travel further,” she said, pegging the new price tags at “$700, $800, $1,000.”
(Sarah asked that TPM not use her last name, out of security concerns since the law’s passage. SB 8 threatens all who “aid and abet” an abortion in Texas past six weeks with criminal liability, and has deputized individuals to turn those people in, creating a legion of, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, “bounty hunters.” Those individuals get a $10,000 reward for a successful suit and legal fees recouped; defendants get nothing if the suit fails.)
Prior to the influx of Texans, Sarah handled client work by herself. Fund Texas Choice has since had to scale up its staff. But, for abortion-adjacent organizations, boosting staff presents its own challenges.
“It’s difficult to hire for abortion care in this area — not because there aren’t great people, but because the stigma makes it difficult for people to even seek this employment out,” Gingrich-Gaylord said. “Also, there’s a little ongoing pandemic, so health care is tough sell.”