FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas bill banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect Wednesday, Sept. 1, after the U.S. Supreme Court failed to act on a request to block it.
The state now has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
“Our parking lot is empty today, in one of the busiest clinics in our company,” said Marva Sadler, senior director of clinical services at Whole Women’s Health of Fort Worth. “Of the few patients we have seen today, we cannot continue to see them because their ultrasounds made them ineligible for a procedure today.”
Abortions in Texas are now banned after an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal heartbeat, which typically happens around six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they’re expecting.
Staff members at Whole Women’s Health had to tell several women today their only option now is to travel outside Texas for an abortion.
“Most of them this morning told us it’s not about the finances of getting to another state,” Sadler said. “It’s the days off work, it’s finding someone to take care of their children and their families, and it’s impossible.”
The clinic worked up until 11:56 p.m. on Tuesday night to get through a “mad rush” of more than 100 patients, anxious for abortion care ahead of the new law going into effect Wednesday.
“We dealt with a lot of emotions,” said Sadler. “We dealt with a lot of fear. We dealt with a lot of uncertainly in making sure that we could get everyone seen.”
Whole Women’s Health is one of several providers currently challenging the law in court, and they say they will keep fighting until it’s overturned.
“I feel confident that this bill is completely unconstitutional, and will be found as such after going through the judiciary process,” said Aimee Arrambide, executive director of Avow Texas. “My concern is that by that time, it will be too late. That access to abortion care will be decimated. That clinics will close.”
The new law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps someone get the procedure after six weeks. Advocates worry an onslaught of lawsuits could financially ruin doctors and their employees.
“I have a building of staff that are having so many emotions today,” Sadler said. “They’re scared this empty parking lot is going to be permanent. They’re sad. They’re anxious. We’re just trying to do our best to get through it.”
Whole Women’s Health plans to stay open to provide ultrasounds for patients and abortions if no fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Planned Parenthood locations in Texas are doing the same.
“Our staff are following the law,” said Kelly Hart, senior director of public affairs with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “We are doing what we can within the incredibly narrow confines of this law to ensure that everybody in Texas who needs and wants an abortion has the ability to have that abortion.”
Anti-abortion advocates call it a victory that abortion providers in the state plan to comply with the new law.
Governor Abbott said on Twitter Wednesday, the measure protects every unborn child with a heartbeat from “the ravages of abortion.”
No freedom is more precious than life itself.
Starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from the ravages of abortion.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) September 1, 2021
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