Pro-choice protesters rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington. Abortion funds are running on empty and clinics are becoming overwhelmed with callers from Texas
Pro-choice protesters rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington. Abortion funds are running on empty and clinics are becoming overwhelmed with callers from Texas © Jim Lo/EPA-EFE

The writer is author of ‘The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America’ and operation director of the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa

It has been more than seven months since Texas banned almost all abortions, and only now are we seeing the true effects of that law.

The media has been full of stories of patients leaving the state to terminate a pregnancy: an 800 per cent increase at Planned Parenthood in Oklahoma, a flood of patients into Colorado, pregnant women travelling all of the way to Chicago, Washington, DC and New York for care. Now, the first pregnant person has just been arrested (and released) over suspicion of managing her own miscarriage. With the nine-month anniversary of this ban drawing close, we are also about to see the impact on those forced to give birth because they couldn’t gain access to an abortion.

While news outlets broadcast the hardships facing Texan abortion seekers and those assisting them, what they are really showcasing is this region’s resilience and success at navigating a cruel and unconstitutional law. Unfortunately, that resilience has limits and we are quickly reaching them.

Since September 1 2021, clinics both in and out of Texas, abortion funds and support groups have pulled together in an attempt to minimise the damage caused by the ban. But the reality is that Texas is just one state, and on its own it has nearly tapped this national network dry.

Abortion funds are running on empty and clinics are becoming overwhelmed with callers. At our own clinic — one of three in the state of Alabama — we have seen the patient load increase by 50 per cent, with many of the new arrivals pushed out of their own states due to the Texas flow.

If the US Supreme Court announces in June, as many believe it will, that all states can make the same decision to eliminate abortion entirely, there is simply no number of clinics in “safe” states and no amount of money that can be provided that could get even a fraction of the people who will want to terminate pregnancies to a place where they can legally access care.

If states are allowed to make their own abortion laws, there will not be a single abortion clinic between New Mexico and Florida, or from the southern end of Illinois down to the Gulf of Mexico. This huge chunk of the US has the highest rates of maternal mortality, unplanned pregnancies and people living in poverty. Now its inhabitants will be abandoned to fight for the financial and logistical resources to travel halfway across the country to terminate a pregnancy in a clinic, or risk jail or poor health outcomes by managing their care alone.

We are already in crisis in the South. Every day at our clinic we see patients who come in pregnant because they were uninsured and couldn’t afford birth control, or who had their own doctors refuse them the type of contraception they wanted. These same doctors who claim pregnancy is a gift when they are justifying abortion bans use it as a punishment behind closed doors. In Alabama, you are twice as likely to die in childbirth compared with the rest of the country.

It is simply not correct to state that without Roe vs Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that women have a constitutional right to end their pregnancies, abortion access will be left as a patchwork across the US. A patchwork implies some sort of connectivity, and in the Deep South we will have none. There is no abortion “oasis” for us to cling on to. There are no “neighbouring states” to take us in. The Texas ban on abortion already has us displacing our own patients. There will be no place left for anyone to go.

We are giving everything we have to assist pregnant Texans seeking abortions since their state went dark. And my biggest fear is that if the whole South follows suit, there will be nothing remaining for us.

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