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Texas clinics halt abortions after Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision

Whole Woman’s Health called patients to cancel appointments and funds that help women receive the procedure paused services following the decision.

Clinics ceased abortions and funds paused helping women obtain the procedure in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday overturning Roe vs. Wade.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an advisory Friday that abortion providers could be held criminally liable if prosecutors choose to enforce laws banning abortion that are still on the books, but were unenforceable under the 1973 decision.

“Texans want to know what to expect now that Roe is overturned,” he said. “The answer is that without further action by the Texas Legislature, abortion will soon be clearly illegal in Texas.”

The state passed a trigger law last year that will make abortions illegal within 30 days of the judgment in Friday’s ruling being final, which could take several weeks.

But Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said the clinic canceled appointments Friday because of what the attorney general said.

“We don’t agree with Ken Paxton, with his interpretation of the criminal abortion ban,” she said Friday in a call with reporters. “But to protect our staff and to protect our patients from the hostile elected officials in Texas, we have ceased providing abortions today.”

The organization plans to continue its Wayfinder Program, which helps women seek abortions at Whole Woman’s Health locations in states with fewer abortion restrictions.

Miller said many patients requested to be put on waitlists if clinics resume abortions before the trigger law goes into effect.

“We’ve been banned from providing abortion care by the repeal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court,” Miller said. “So unfortunately, if we do reopen, it will probably be short-lived.”

Planned Parenthood has also paused abortions in Texas, spokeswoman Sarah Wheat said, but clinics remain open for appointments for birth control, cancer screenings and other exams.

Texas’ trigger law does not make exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest. The only circumstance under which abortions can take place is when the woman is at significant risk of death or serious injury.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas already had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S., with almost all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy prohibited after Senate Bill 8 took effect in September.

Bhavik Kumar, medical director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said Texas has been in a post-Roe world since the law went into effect.

“Abortion is vastly inaccessible to the vast majority of people,” he said. “There has been nothing more inhumane, cruel, and unethical for me as a physician than denying people the care they seek in their time of need.”

With the court’s decision, Texans seeking an abortion will have to travel to a clinic out of state or obtain pills outside of the medical system.

Abortion funds pause cash

Groups that help cover the cost of an abortion or of traveling to receive one paused funding in the wake of the decision.

Data from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project shows that 5,574 Texas residents obtained out-of-state abortions from September to December 2021, compared to 514 residents during the same time period in 2019.

The Dallas-based Texas Equal Access Fund announced it will pause funding and await further information on what services it can resume.

“What is happening is not right, fair, or just. It’s a blatant disregard for people that we know and love as well as to people we may never know but would have supported,” executive director Kamyon Conner said in a statement. “Abortions help people who don’t want to be pregnant or can’t be pregnant due to medical reasons. Everyone should be able to access abortion care without stigma or barriers.”

The Lilith Fund has a hotline open for questions but has paused direct funding.

“As an abortion fund in Texas, we’ve been consistently threatened and harassed by anti-abortion activists and even elected officials,” said Amanda Beatriz Williams, the fund’s executive director. “Because of this morning’s ruling, we are now forced to pause our direct abortion funding while we fully evaluate the impact of this decision.”

Despite Texas’ strict abortion laws, Stephanie Mischell, a family medicine provider in Dallas and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said at least a small percentage of people were able to receive abortions in Texas.

“It’s a totally different thing to have to seek care in your community versus having to travel,” Mischell said. “There are so many factors that come up when you’re trying to plan going to another state. Where are you going to stay? Who’s going to look after your kids? What are you going to do about your job?”

The Texas trigger law does not target women who have abortions, but instead levies criminal penalties and fines on those who perform or help provide the procedure.

Still, some fear Texas will move to charge women with a crime for seeking an abortion.

Laws banning abortions can also affect the care doctors can provide for patients having a miscarriage, Mischell said.

“If somebody comes into our office or comes into our hospital bleeding, having a miscarriage, they should be able to get the treatment that they need and not be afraid of criminalization,” she said.

In April, a woman was arrested in the Rio Grande Valley on a murder charge for an alleged self-induced abortion. Charges were later dropped, as self-induced abortion is not illegal in Texas.

Some district attorneys, including Dallas County’s John Creuzot, have pledged not to enforce laws criminalizing abortion.

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