Many clinics in Texas have observed an increase in later-term abortions, following a temporary ban on the procedures lasting from March 22 until April 22.
On March 22, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning most abortions, citing coronavirus and hospital capacity as reasons for this ban. The order stated that “all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities shall postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary”.
The attorney general, Ken Paxton, made this ban explicit by stating “This prohibition applies throughout the State and to all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary, including routine dermatological, ophthalmological, and dental procedures, as well as most scheduled healthcare procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
After a month of uncertainty and legal debate, clinics in Texas were allowed to resume administering abortions on April 22. Almost immediately, these clinics saw an influx of patients, particularly those seeking later abortions. For example, the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas observed a 57 percent increase in second-trimester abortions in the month following April 22, as compared to the month leading up to March 22. Additionally, the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston saw a 28 percent in abortions for 10-week or later pregnancies.
This 10-week marker is important, as it serves as the limit for receiving medication abortions in Texas. Medication abortions are very effective and provide some people with more privacy and a less invasive feeling. Soraya Dadras heard this sentiment from her patients at Whole Woman’s Health in Austin and said that “The idea of having an in-clinic procedure was more daunting for them than having a medication abortion in the safety of their home with their partner”.
The month-long ban made this option inaccessible for many people, a fact echoed by Dr. Bhavik Kumar from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast: “At the first visit, folks had expressed wanting to do a medication abortion, but then so many people weren’t able to come back for several weeks, which put them out of the window when they would have been able to access that care,” and “We were ready, capable and able to do what we needed to do to take care of our patients, but we legally weren’t able to do that”.
A 21-year-old Houston resident named Paige experienced the repercussions of this ban firsthand. Not only was she worried about the cost of abortion, but also had to travel outside the state to receive an abortion at the time. She said, “I felt like I was being punished in some way for getting pregnant…I felt like I was on an emotional and physical roller coaster.” Once she returned to Texas, after receiving an abortion in Albuquerque, she finally felt relieved. “I was back in the comfort of my own space, where I knew COVID couldn’t get me, and I was finally able to lay down and breathe, because I didn’t feel like I was breathing through any of it”.
Sources: NBC News 8/12/20; Feminist Newswire 3/26/20; Texas Attorney General 3/23/20; Planned Parenthood