In the past five years, state governments passed more restrictions on abortion access than they had in the entire previous decade. Twenty-eight states now insist women wait some length of time between pre-abortion counsel and the procedure; 14 states require that an abortion provider have an affiliation with a local hospital; and 22 states have ruled that the very clinics that have been offering abortion services for decades upgrade, expand, or re-build their facilities—all this for a procedure that is considered safer than a colonoscopy.
Known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers or TRAP laws, these provisos have shuttered otherwise up-to-code clinics for no good medical reason. Last month, the Supreme Court heard a case challenging Texas House Bill 2 (HB2)—a TRAP law that has closed the doors of dozens of clinics in Texas. If the court upholds that law, fewer than a dozen clinics will stay open. It's safe to say that other state legislatures will take note.
These restrictions have already burdened millions of women, driving them to extreme measures and into emotional turmoil. Here, six share their stories.
DR. VALERIE PETERSON, ADMINISTRATOR AT A NON-PROFIT EDUCATION ORGANIZATION, TEXAS
On July 31, 2015, I found out I was pregnant. Because I have high blood pressure, it was considered a high-risk pregnancy, and I was referred to a specialized maternal fetal doctor in Austin. I was supposed to see the doctor every two weeks and have what they call a level-2 ultrasound. They use it to look at everything—the baby's anatomy, the baby's development. Around the 12-week mark, they suspected that something was not quite right with my son's brain. They did genetic testing, but the results came back normal. So I went home and tried to stay relaxed. When I came back for the ultrasound at 14 weeks, my doctor was still concerned that the brain was not forming like it should, but she couldn't say anything for sure. Again, it was "We'll see you in two weeks. We'll do another ultrasound."
When I went back at 16 weeks, the baby was diagnosed with Holoprosencephaly, which means his brain had not separated into two halves and it was not connected to his spinal cord. The doctor told me at that point that this particular fetal anomaly is 100 percent incompatible with life—100 percent. Sixty-four percent of those fetuses miscarry really early. Only 3 percent make it to term. At that point, they're typically born stillborn or they only live a couple hours. He explained my options. Option number one was to continue with the pregnancy and wait for my body to naturally miscarry him, which meant that I would probably have had to go through labor and delivery because I was so far into the pregnancy. Option number two was to terminate the pregnancy.
I chose to terminate the pregnancy. I asked the doctor whether I could have this done immediately, because emotionally I couldn't handle continuing to be pregnant. I was already showing. The baby was already moving. Each day that I continued would just make it more difficult. The doctor said "I have to refer you out to Planned Parenthood." At that point, I was kind of confused. I was like, "Planned Parenthood? Why do I have to go to Planned Parenthood?" And that's when he explained that to terminate this pregnancy I would have to have an "elective" abortion. He said, "Believe or not, this happens a lot. I make a lot of women cry. I hate these situations, but I have a personal relationship with this doctor and you'll be taken care of."
I said, "Can you get me in tomorrow?" And he said, "That's going to be difficult to do because Texas clinics are having 3 or 4 week wait times." But I was at 16 weeks. After 20 weeks, you can't have an abortion [in Texas]. Besides, I knew there was no way I could wait 3 or 4 weeks. Mentally, I couldn't. So he said he'd make a personal phone call to let them know my situation.