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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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Texas abortion law leads to ‘50% decrease in the number of patients who are able to have abortions’

Nine months have passed since the state of Texas passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation last year.

Senate Bill 8, or S.B. 8, bans abortion upon detection of fetal cardiac activity, commonly around 6 weeks of pregnancy, and allows almost anyone to sue abortion providers and others who “aid and abet” a person obtaining abortion care.

A subsequent piece of legislation, Senate Bill 4, implemented in December 2021, bars access to abortion-inducing pills to patients who are more than 7 weeks pregnant.

The restrictive laws have had a significant impact on the ability of women in Texas to access and receive abortions.

“What that has resulted in on the ground, based on some of our research, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, has been that we’ve seen about a 50% decrease in the number of patients who are able to have abortions in Texas,” said Dr. Laura Thaxton, a practicing OB-GYN and assistant professor at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.

Many women seeking abortions are choosing to travel to neighboring states.

The Texas Policy Evaluation project found that between September and December 2021, an average of 1,391 Texans per month obtained abortions at out-of-state facilities in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In August 2021, one month before S.B. 8 went into effect, 235 Texans residents received abortion care at one of these out of state facilities.

But not everyone can afford to travel or self-manage an abortion at home. The poor, teenagers, bipoc communities, rural residents and people with low social capital have been affected most, according to Thaxton.

Teenagers face additional hurdles.

In Texas, anyone under age 18 must receive parental consent and permission in order to get an abortion.

Jane’s Due Process is an Austin-based not-for-profit that assists youths in getting judicial bypass, an order from a judge that allows a minor to get an abortion without the notification or consent of her parents.

“It used to be you could do this thing called judicial bypass. But that process involves going to court, getting an order from a judge, but all of it took time. It used to take 2-3 weeks. But if you just find out you’re pregnant at 5 weeks, that would put you past the abortion ban limit,” explained Rosann Mariappuram, attorney and Jane’s Due Process executive director.

“Since S.B. 8, our numbers dropped dramatically,” Mariappuram added. “Before I would say we could help the majority of youth get abortions, now maybe a handful. So even though 30 people reach out for help every month, a handful of them are actually getting their abortions and the rest are staying pregnant.”

The impact of Texas’s abortion laws extends beyond women seeking abortions.

“We have seen that miscarriage care is a little bit more complicated now, and that is because the treatment options for miscarriage look very similar to what it looks like to have an abortion,” Thaxton said. “We’ve had patients turned away from the pharmacies trying to pick up their medications.”

The laws have also complicated the detection and treatment of potentially life-threatening problems.

“Sometimes there are pregnancies that can be, you know, affected and devastating ways, such as anomalies, where the brain doesn’t develop normally or the kidneys don’t develop normally. And those are pregnancies that have been, you know, very poor outcomes and will very likely die soon after birth. The standard of care is to offer patients that have those diagnoses an abortion. And in Texas, we cannot offer that service,” Thaxton said.

“As an OB-GYN, to not be able to offer patients this health care that is extraordinarily common is really defeating and difficult,” she added.

A Supreme Court ruling on abortion could come as early as this month.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, 30 days later a “trigger law” in Texas would go into effect that would ban abortion from the moment of fertilization. No exceptions would be offered for rape, incest or conditions in utero that are likely to result in the death of the baby.

(Production: Liliana Salgado, Christine Kiernan)

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