- Texas now has the most restrictive abortion law in the nation.
- The state’s 6-week abortion law has created a lot of uncertainty for both patients and abortion service providers.
- Many people are now seeking legal alternatives to access safe abortion, which is proving costly with out-of-state transport and time off work.
- There are many funds that can help with costs, as well as online resources for information and legal or medical advice.
Senate Bill 8, or the Texas abortion law, as it’s more commonly known, went into effect last week after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block it.
Since then, people who are more than 6 weeks pregnant have been left without access to safe abortion in the southern state.
The controversial law prohibits abortion as soon as cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which can be as early as 6 weeks.
This short window proves problematic for many people, as a regular menstrual cycle can range anywhere from 24 to 38 days. For teens and people in perimenopause, this time frame may be shorter or longer.
That means a lot of people will not realize they’re pregnant before 6 weeks.
Even if they have a menstrual cycle that averages 28 days, they only have a 2-week window to confirm and access abortion services in a safe and legal way.
The law also does not make any exceptions for cases involving rape or incest, a point highly criticized by abortion and reproductive rights groups.
Texas joins ‘abortion deserts’ in the U.S.
The law has effectively turned the state into an “abortion desert,” a rising trend in certain areas of the United States.
According to a 2018 study, 27 major U.S. cities are “abortion deserts,” which were defined as cities with more than 50,000 residents and where people would have to travel over 100 miles to reach the nearest abortion provider.
Currently, people living in the Midwest or South have access to fewer abortion clinics and have to travel longer distances.
Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia all have one in-state abortion facility.
After the law, the driving distance to the closest out-of-state facility for a Texan seeking an abortion increased from 12 to 248 miles, based on analyses by the Guttmacher Institute. That equals to about 3.5 hours of extra driving time each way.
In addition, many people already cannot afford costs for abortion in the state, let alone one out of state.
Under normal circumstances, a surgical abortion starts at around $450 in Texas, with mandatory ultrasounds ranging between $100 and $150. All in all, that’s at least $550 without transportation — a fee not everyone can afford.
A lot of people may also not be able to create the time. Many people say they cannot afford child care or the time off work.
“While some people will be able to travel out of state to obtain an abortion, that is not a feasible option for many people who do not have a car that can make a long trip or who can’t take additional time off of work, find child care, or manage unexpected travel like this. The reality is that some people will be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will,” the Very Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), told Healthline.
“On the first day this law was in effect, we heard from callers who said that they would not be able to travel and knew that they would be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will,” she said.
Increased waiting times for appointments
At the moment, any healthcare professional who performs an abortion for a person who is more than 6 weeks pregnant or anyone who aids the procedure or their transport can be sued under the Texas law.
That has left people with no choice but to book appointments out of Texas.
Since Sept. 1, bookings at abortion clinics in nearby states have continued to rise, with reports suggesting some have weeks-long waits.
The Associated Press reported that an abortion facility in Oklahoma had received two times more inquiries than normal during the last week, and over 60 percent of these were from Texas.
Similarly, a clinic in Kansas said it saw a 40 percent increase in calls and bookings in the same period.
Plan C Pills, which is an online resource offering people guidance on getting abortion pills, told Healthline it’s seen multifold growth in inquiries within the last week.
The company’s following on social media has also seen rapid growth in engagement, with its Instagram account alone gaining almost sixfold followers in the first 5 days after Senate Bill 8 went into effect.
What can I do about contraception?
Dr. Amy Roskin, JD, an OB-GYN and the chief medical officer at The Pill Club, said it was now “more important than ever” to use effective and reliable methods of contraception.
She suggested using two forms of birth control, e.g., using a condom in addition to the pill, ring, or implant, to decrease pregnancy risk.
The Pill Club is one option for people living in Texas and seeking affordable contraception.
The online healthcare provider accepts most major insurance plans, Medicaid, and cash. It fills and ships prescriptions of over 120 Food and Drug Administration-approved birth control brands and emergency contraception directly to members.
Speaking with Healthline, Dr. Jennifer Villavicencio, an OB-GYN and lead for equity transformation at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), said one of the biggest problems created by this law was that it left people without knowing their healthcare options.
“I would recommend anyone who does not want to become pregnant to speak with their obstetrician-gynecologist or reproductive healthcare provider about the effective contraceptive options that are available,” she said.
Villavicencio underlined that issues will remain even for people with access to contraception.
There’s no birth control that’s 100 percent effective. And many highly desired pregnancies can end in abortion due to various circumstances.
Accessing safe abortion is not equal for everyone
Roskin told Healthline the Texas law will disproportionately harm People of Color, young people, low-income households, and those who live in rural areas.
“Those with means will still be able to get out of the state and get care, while everyone else will likely be forced into pregnancies they can’t afford,” she said.
Roskin said the law also sets a troubling precedent that could embolden 25 other states to introduce and pass similar legislation.
“We’re already seeing troubling signs that the Texas abortion law will be replicated in other states that have long been trying to restrict women’s basic right to reproductive healthcare. Abortion restrictions interfere in people’s healthcare decisions — particularly young women, low-income women, and women of color.”
— Dr. Amy Roskin, chief medical officer at The Pill Club
“This law will have greater impact on certain groups of people, those always most harmed by abortion restrictions. This includes People of Color, those without abundant financial resources to travel to access legal abortion, adolescents, those with uncertain immigration status, and those with existing family demands that prevent them from traveling,” Villavicencio said.
The law will “leave countless pregnant people unable to access needed abortion care. Clinics will close, healthcare professionals will be unable to offer critical healthcare they previously offered,” she added.
Where can I go to for help about abortion in or outside of Texas?
Many nonprofits seek to help people pay for not only the cost of the abortion itself but also other expenses, such as food, travel, and accommodation for those traveling outside the state.
Many organizations can help with finding a trusted clinic or can offer guidance about contraception.
Here are some of the most trusted resources about abortion care and what you can do if you need help.
- Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit that provides healthcare services such as sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, birth control, cancer screening, abortion, and infertility services.
- Whole Woman’s Health. Whole Woman’s Health is an independent abortion services provider that operates in the north and central regions of Texas, and in four out-of-state clinics.
Help for funding
- Fund Texas Choice. Fund Texas Choice is a Dallas-based nonprofit and affiliate of the National Network of Abortion Funds. It helps people seeking an abortion in or out of state with lodging and transportation costs. It also provides information on organizations that can help with medical costs associated with abortion.
- Lilith Fund. The Lilith Fund is a nonprofit that provides direct financial assistance for abortion care to those residing in the central and southern regions of Texas. It also has an emotional support hotline.
- Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund. The TEA Fund is a nonprofit that helps low-income households in the northern, eastern, and Panhandle regions of Texas pay for an abortion. It also provides emotional support through text, an online support group, and virtual clinic, and offers guidance on where people can get abortions.
- Cobalt. Cobalt is a Colorado-based nonprofit that advocates for reproductive rights. Through the Cobalt Abortion Fund, people can get access to direct financial assistance for abortion care.
- Buckle Bunnies Fund. The Buckle Bunnies Fund is an organization that allows people in Texas to request funding for an abortion via an online form and provides self-care kits.
- West Fund. The West Fund is an organization that works with clinics in El Paso and helps people with funding for abortion care. It also has a dedicated hotline for Spanish speakers.
- Stigma Relief Fund. The Stigma Relief Fund is a fund for those seeking abortion care at Whole Woman’s Health. It helps people with the costs of medical procedures associated with abortion as well as food, travel, and lodging.
- Frontera Fund. The Frontera Fund provides financial assistance for abortion to Texans living in the Rio Grande Valley region, regardless of immigration status or gender identity.
- Indigenous Women Rising Abortion Fund. The Indigenous Women Rising Abortion Fund helps all Indigenous people in the United States and Canada with procedural costs as well as food, gas, and child care.
- The Afiya Center. The Afiya Center is a North Texas advocacy organization that provides ongoing support to help Black people access abortion services access. Its Support Your Sistah Fund assists people with transportation and child care costs, as well as procedure costs occasionally.
If you would prefer donating to multiple organizations at once, ActBlue can do the divvying up.
ActBlue is a nonprofit that allows you to donate to 10 different funds (West Fund, Clinic Access Support Network, TEA Fund, Bridge Collective, Lilith Fund, Support Your Sistah at the Afiya Center, Fund Texas Choice, Jane’s Due Process, Frontera Fund, and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance Inc.) and split it among them.
Help with transport
- The Bridge Collective. The Bridge Collective, which operates in central Texas, offers transportation for people who have booked appointments at abortion clinics within 100 miles of Austin. It also provides people with free health kits containing emergency contraception and pregnancy tests.
Help for minors
In Texas, minors, or those ages 17 and under, need to get the consent of a parent or legal guardian before getting an abortion.
If you do not wish to do that, you can apply to get a signed order from a judge called a judicial bypass.
Jane’s Due Process helps young Texans by offering free legal support and case management. It also has a text line for information on birth control and family planning without having to get parental consent.
Help with information about abortion
Plan C Pills
Plan C Pills is an online information resource that helps people access abortion pills for self-managed abortion.
More people are likely to self-induce abortions due to SB8
There are two types of abortions: medication or surgery.
For medication abortion, the most widely used pills are misoprostol and mifepristone. They are very safe but not readily available in all U.S. states. The Food and Drug Administration’s 2016 guidelines say the pills are safe up to 70 days or 10 weeks after initial conception.
With Senate Bill 8, doctors fear that more people may resort to dangerous abortion methods, such as taking unproven pills or herbs and inflicting abdominal trauma to terminate their pregnancy, putting their health at risk.
National Abortion Federation
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) lists abortion providers nationwide and works with them to keep patients and staff safe. It also offers information about what to expect from abortion and how you can access funding if you need it.
The NAF has the largest national and multilingual free hotline that helps people get information about abortion and financial assistance for their care and travel.
In response to increased calls from people in Texas, the NAF now also has a dedicated Texas Concierge Team to help callers.
Speaking with Healthline, the Very Rev. Hancock Ragsdale, said:
“People who want to help can donate to the clinics in Texas, including the independent clinics that provide the majority of abortion care. They can also help fund travel for patients who need to leave Texas to obtain an abortion through NAF’s patient assistance fund.”
People concerned that they might be pregnant and need an abortion can call the NAF Hotline at 800-772-9100 to learn more about their options and get case management support.
If/When/How is a network of legal professionals and students that offers information and resources on legal rights for matters on reproductive justice.
Villavicencio also recommends that people reach out to their community healthcare professionals for the most up-to-date guidance on how to access abortion care.
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