As we wait for the ultimate decision on the constitutionality of HB-2 from the Supreme Court of the United States, let’s remember what is at stake: the lives of people who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. These people have a choice to make, and it is important that they have the best resources available to choose from. Without access to these resources, the choice becomes much more difficult. Informed medical decisions between doctor and patient cannot take place without unburdened access to a clinic. If there are no doctors available nearby, there is increased potential for hazardous, even deadly, results caused by misguided self-procedures. When the number of clinics is cut down by 88%, the remaining 12% of clinics are faced with an overload of patients, resulting in long wait lists, which too often forces women to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term, or make an even more difficult choice: the risk of dying from infection caused by an unassisted abortion.
What follows is the personal account of a clinic worker who asked to not be identified.
“Texas is one of the states that seems to be cracking down hardest on safe abortion care access; with laws like HB-2 still working its way sluggishly through the courts, and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, we are rapidly disintegrating women’s ability to access safe abortion care as well as other reproductive healthcare. Working inside one of the few clinics still standing after spending so many years as an advocate has certainly made me ever vigilant in the fight for reproductive justice we are waging here in Texas.
Often, I see women who are traveling extreme distances to arrive at our clinic – some from overseas, in countries where they would otherwise go to prison for terminating a pregnancy, some from the outer edges of Texas – but all desperately needing a clinic that can provide a safe and comforting environment. Specifically, my heart breaks for the young women who have no way to get themselves from central Texas to the clinic, who also are minors that have to use the judicial bypass system to obtain an abortion. These are girls who have no one to turn to in a desperate situation, where they face keeping an unwanted pregnancy sometimes simply for being unable to find transportation. I have more than once met with young women who knew that if their parents were made aware of their unintended pregnancy they would be forced to have a child that they couldn’t possibly care for properly. These are also the women that most often have had the least amount of sexual education because of Texas’ archaic views on sex ed. Having been educated in a school that offered abstinence-only education, I understand why they are so woefully uninformed, but it is still absolutely unacceptable. I feel more like an educator at times, explaining birth control, safe sex, STI’s, and how their own bodies work to them. Not only is reproductive healthcare a right, but so is fact-based and informative sexual education.
I, and many of my patients, are extremely grateful to the many volunteers who take the time out of their day to provide a safe means of transportation so these women are able to make their appointments. Since Texas created the 24-hour waiting period, as well as shut down so many local clinics, there are women who are having to take off from work, find childcare, travel for multiple days, and also find someone to drop them off and pick them up. This is quite the burden, especially for those who are unable to find an understanding and supportive friend or family member. For many of these women, the volunteers and the clinic staff are the only non-judgmental faces they will see during this process, and it can be a very trying time for many of them.
Working inside the clinic has certainly opened my eyes and made all of the women I previously advocated for so much more real to me. Each of these women has their own story, their own issues, and their own reasons, and they all deserve our support and trust in their judgment. All women deserve to access safe reproductive healthcare, including abortion care.”
This story and others like it exemplify the risks involved in cutting reproductive health services to our communities. If there are not enough clinics, not enough doctors, there is not enough help for people facing an unplanned pregnancy. More decisions made without medical advice causes more diseases and more deaths every day these clinics remain closed.
Take a stand with us, and volunteer or donate to help keep reproductive health care accessible to all Texans at http://www.houstonclinicaccess.org