The 33-year-old Texas woman drove four hours through the night to come to the abortion clinic in Louisiana for an exam. She originally planned to sleep in her car, but an advocacy group helped arrange a hotel room.
Single and with three children, ages five to 13, she worried that adding a baby would take away time, food, money, and space for her three children.
She doesn’t have a job, and without the help of safe abortion groups, she probably would have looked for another way to end her pregnancy.
“If you can’t get rid of the baby, what are you going to do next? You will try to get rid of it yourself. So I think, ‘What could I do? What are some home remedies I could do to get rid of this baby, have a miscarriage, have an abortion? ‘ And that’s not how it should be. I shouldn’t have to do this. I shouldn’t have to think like that, feel like that, none of that.
“We need to be heard. That needs to change. It’s not right, ”she said.
A nurse checks the vital signs of a 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas while she rests after an abortion on Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell / AP
She was one of more than a dozen women who arrived on Saturday at Hope Medical Group for Women, a one-story brick building with covered windows south of downtown Shreveport.
Some came alone, others were accompanied by a friend or partner. Some brought their children with them because they could not get childcare.
All of them tried to end pregnancies, and most came from neighboring Texas, where the country’s most restrictive abortion law remains in place.
It prohibits abortions once embryonic heart activity is detected after about six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. It doesn’t make any exceptions for rape or incest. As a result, abortion clinics in surrounding states are inundated with Texan women.
The women agreed to speak to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to speak more openly.
Like many others, the 33-year-old Texan mother said she tried planning an abortion closer to home but was too advanced.
When she came to the clinic for an abortion on Saturday, she was just nine weeks old and had to undergo a surgical abortion instead of taking medication. She said the ordeal made her angry at the Texan politicians who passed the law.
“If I had to keep this baby, I don’t know what would have happened. I would have probably gone mad and they don’t understand, ”she said with a moved voice.
A 25-year-old woman made the 70-mile journey south of Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border. She said she was five weeks old before realizing she was pregnant and she knew it would be impossible to plan the required two visits to a Texan clinic.
By the time she was able to make an appointment in Shreveport, her pregnancy was almost too advanced for an abortion with drugs.
“Fortunately, I found out because then I could still take the pill instead of the surgery,” she said.
While she was in the clinic, her husband waited for hours in the car with her young son, who is still a toddler and still breastfeeding. They had no one else to watch him.
A 25-year-old woman from Texarkana, Texas is being led by lab technician Stephannie Chaffee on Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell / AP
Texas law has wavered between courts for weeks. The Biden administration asked the courts again on Monday to suspend them.
These efforts came three days after a federal appeals court reinstated the law after a bloody lower court ruling last week created a short 48-hour window during which Texas abortion providers rushed to readmit patients.
The anti-abortion campaign that fueled the law aims to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where anti-abortionists are hoping that the conservative coalition formed under Donald Trump will end the constitutional right to abortion, which the landmark ruling will endorse Roe versus Wade from 1973.
When most of the women entered the clinic’s parking lot, they were met by anti-abortion protesters.
John Powers, 44, a machinist from Jacksonville, Texas, said he comes twice a month to get women to change their minds.
The stories of many patients are troubling to Kathaleen Pittman, the clinic’s director. She said she recently spoke to a mother in Texas who is trying to obtain an abortion for her 13-year-old daughter who has been sexually abused.
“She’s a child,” said Pittman. “She shouldn’t have to travel for hours to get here. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. “
Before Texas law went into effect, about 20% of their customers were from Texas, according to Pittman. Now that number is closer to 60% and women are hundreds of miles from Austin, Houston or San Antonio.
With an estimated 1,000 women per week in Texas seeking abortions, clinics in surrounding states report being overwhelmed.
The Trust Women Clinic in Oklahoma City, which is about a three-hour drive from Dallas-Fort Worth, saw about 11 patients from Texas in August.
In September, after Texas law went into effect, that number rose to 110 and the clinic’s phones kept ringing, said Rebecca Tong, co-managing director of Trust Women, which also runs a clinic in Wichita, Kansas.
“Many of them are literally trying to drive through the night and then show up for their appointment at 8 a.m. without having rested,” Tong said. “It’s just not a good situation.”