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Health center staff report that “these Texas patients are uniformly terrified,” and SB8 “makes women feel like there’s a bounty on their head for receiving health care.”

The 19th*: Planned Parenthood groups detail the impact of Texas’ abortion law on patients and providers in legal brief

NEW ORLEANS — Today, five Planned Parenthood abortion providers filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) challenge to Texas S.B. 8, the radical six-week abortion ban that has deprived Texans of the right to abortion for more than a month now. In the brief, providers and patients share the deeply personal real-life impact that this cruel law has had in the more than one month it’s been in effect.

The brief was filed in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to S.B. 8, U.S. v. State of Texas. The law, with its radical “sue thy neighbor” provision, has made abortion virtually inaccessible in Texas. On October 6, a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law. The State of Texas appealed, however, and sought both a temporary stay and a stay while the Fifth Circuit is considering its appeal. And just two days after the law was blocked, a Fifth Circuit panel halted the injunction — putting the ban back into place and thereby once again blocking the majority of abortions throughout the state of Texas. 

The brief describes first-hand accounts of the devastating harm that has been and will continue to be imposed if S.B. 8 remains in effect. Abortion patients who have been denied care under S.B. 8 shared the immediate effects of the abortion ban on their health and wellbeing, including delayed access to time-sensitive care; extraordinary financial burdens stemming from travel, childcare, and lost wages; and emotional trauma. Providers, too, describe the weight of caring for patients who have travelled hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care, or who may be forced to carry their pregnancy to term.

Excerpts from some of the patients and health care providers featured in the brief are below.

D.O., patient denied abortion under S.B. 8:

D.O. is the single mother of a kindergartener and is balancing work and school. She was just out of a relationship with her daughter’s father who “was just really bad … very abusive.”... She “finally got away” and “was building [her] life.”... She said, “I just don’t think that I can take it again.” D.O. could not get an abortion in Texas under SB8. She was filled with “fear of if I’m actually going to be able to go through this, because so many factors have to go around: me missing work, having to make sure that she has somebody to take care [of her daughter], and then probably having to explain the situation to somebody because I need somebody to take care of her, and then the cost…. It makes me really angry. It makes me really sad.”

E.M., patient denied abortion under S.B. 8: 

E.M. tracks her periods on a phone application but they are irregular, and her pregnancy was “further along … than [she] anticipated.” Because of SB8, her only option for an abortion is to leave Texas… She is concerned taking time off work to travel for the abortion could affect

her retail job since there are “blackout dates for three months where [she] can’t ask

for time off.” She struggles to cover expenses and lives paycheck-to-paycheck… She is not sure whether [her partner]  will travel with her, and she cannot ask anyone else because the abortion is “not something [she] really want[s] to disclose to family.” She considered using a ride service/taxi but the idea “is scary” because she would be in a car alone “with a stranger [as she is] coming off anesthesia.”

J.T., patient denied abortion under S.B. 8: 

J.T. is in her mid-thirties with seven children, and recently lost employment when they contracted COVID-19. She explained that she “can’t have another child” and that her “seven children come first.” J.T. was too far along to have an abortion in Texas and considered buying “pills” online. With Mississippi appointments booking nine weeks out, J.T. woke up at 4 a.m. to drive six hours to Oklahoma. She split up her children among various caretakers. She said that hotel, food, and gas “took away over half of what I make in the month…. I looked up my bank account before I walked in [to the clinic].” She also said had she gone to a clinic closer to home, “I could be done and making dinner for my children.”

R.T., patient denied abortion under S.B. 8: 

R.T. was pulled over on her way to Oklahoma. She said, “It was very scary. [The police] made my boyfriend get out of the car, and my boyfriend is African American … . I was so scared. He asked me where I was going, and I told him to Planned Parenthood. I have never driven here, I don’t know the rules… I was in a rental car... But now he [was] saying,‘which Planned Parenthood?’ I thought, ‘what do you want me to say? That I am going to get an abortion?’”

E.V., health center staff, Houston:

E.V. in Houston cried with her first patient after SB8 passed. The patient had detectable embryonic cardiac activity on the day of her scheduled procedure after having none the day before. E.V. also spoke of a minor patient whose mother only spoke Spanish. Neither the mother nor the patient had been to another State and could not understand why they needed to leave Texas for an abortion or what would be required.

H.R., health center staff, Oklahoma:

Tulsa-based H.R. reports that Oklahoma staff are working overtime to care for Texas patients denied abortions. H.R. says Texas patients “com[e] with a sense of desperation.” The prolonged hours her team has been working are not sustainable… H.R. says clinicians cannot offer pain medication or sedation  to patients who must drive themselves home after the procedure. Supplies are depleting quickly because they are providing extra menstrual and heating pads for the long drives back to Texas.

T.W., health center staff, Oklahoma: 

According to T.W., “there is no family planning clinic a lot of days because their abortion roster is so full right now.” T.W. also notes many patients speak Spanish, but unlike providers in Texas, Oklahoma providers are not generally bilingual…  T.W. says the situation under SB8 is “dangerous.” Oklahoma nurses are triaging patients by phone, including with potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. Some patients express concern about seeking care in Texas after an out-of-State abortion if they experience complications… T.W. says, “These Texas patients are uniformly terrified,” and SB8 “makes women feel like there’s a bounty on their head for receiving health care. With a $10,000 incentive to turn people in … it is endangering the lives of women.”

The Planned Parenthood affiliates submitting the brief are Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma; Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains; Planned Parenthood Center for Choice; Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services; Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains; and Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP, authored the amicus brief. 

Read more in The 19th* here

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.