Texas abortion ban forces thousands to cross state lines

New research by the University of Texas reveals Texas’s highly restrictive abortion law has forced thousands of women to seek abortions out of state.

The law, known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8) was passed last year and banned almost all abortions in the state. Between September and December 2021, an average of 1,400 Texas women travelled each month to receive abortion services at 34 facilities in nearby states. These include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

45% of Texans forced to travel out of state within this timeframe received abortion care in Oklahoma which has only four facilities offering abortion services – more than double the monthly average of patients visiting the Oklahoma facilities in 2020, before SB8 was passed.

27% travelled to New Mexico to obtain the service, where there are seven facilities that do not require state-mandated counselling, wait times or parental consent for minors.

As part of the study, researchers interviewed 65 Texas women who sought abortions across state lines, from October 2021 to February 2022.

Participants were aged between 18 to 42 years old. 46% identified as Hispanic/Latinx, 23% as Black, 21% as White, 6% as Asian and 2% as more than one race.

Participants reported their abortions happened at a median gestational period of nine weeks. SB8 has banned abortion after six weeks.

Participants also described common experiences with delays, as a result of state law enforcing mandatory ultrasounds and counselling visits. Others reported visiting “pregnancy resource centres” which can offer free ultrasounds but may seek to discourage pregnant people from seeking an abortion. Those participants where the pregnancy posed health risks reported healthcare providers were disinclined to provide information on out of state abortion services. The law also adds the burden of travel costs and long wait times in those states.

In June, the conservative-majority supreme court is expected to deliver a decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation – a significant case following 1973 Roe v Wade which effectively legalised abortion in the US. State leadership seeks to ban abortion after 15 weeks gestation in Mississippi’s last abortion clinic, asking the highest court to overturn Roe.

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Una Jones

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June 2022
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