Commentary Abortion

How HB 2 Is Changing Abortion Access for Texas Women


If Texas' omnibus anti-abortion law was in effect back in 2001 and in 2006, I wouldn’t still be childfree. I wouldn’t have gotten married. I wouldn’t have bought my house. Basically, my life would be completely different.

Read more of our coverage on Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster and the fight for reproductive rights in Texas here.

It’s not a secret, but it’s not something that I am very open about. I’ve had two abortions. I had one in 2001 when I was living in Bryan-College Station and a student at Texas A&M University and one in 2006 when I was a law student in Houston.

The reasons I had these procedures are not particularly important. But there are some things that are important about my experiences. Even as a young, educated woman, I faced barriers to accessing abortion. When I had the first abortion, I didn’t know a single woman who had an abortion in my life. I had very few people in my life I could trust, because several people I trusted actively tried to talk/force me out of it. I was a full-time student with a demanding class schedule filled with labs, group assignments, and other commitments. I had a part-time job. I had just started my campus job a few weeks before I found out I was pregnant, and I hadn’t even gotten my first paycheck. I had no vehicle, and there was very limited public transportation. When I had the second abortion, I was a full-time law student working a part-time hourly clerkship for a “pro-life” Republican judge. I couldn’t tell him why I needed the time off; I couldn’t afford the blow to my paycheck. But we made it work.

I realized that if HB 2, Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, was in effect back in 2001 and in 2006, I wouldn’t still be childfree. I wouldn’t have gone to law school. I would have destroyed my relationship with my parents. I don’t think my partner at the time and I would have worked out either. I never would have become an attorney. I wouldn’t have gotten married. I wouldn’t have bought my house. I wouldn’t have achieved any of this. Basically, my life would be completely different.

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How women access abortion has changed since I had that first procedure in 2001. The “Right to Know Act” went into effect in 2003. In 2006, the “Right to Know” information was administered to me by phone, and not in-person, and it didn’t hinder my access. But in 2011, the Texas legislature began requiring an ultrasound 24 hours before an abortion (additionally, the doctor is required to say certain things about the development of the fetus during the visit for the ultrasound before proceeding with the abortion). If this provision had been in effect when I had my abortions, it would have added an additional appointment for me both times. Because I lived less than 100 miles from a clinic (and my identification had my address as less than 100 miles from the clinic), I would not be subject to the waiver allowing me to have an ultrasound the same day as the procedure.

The clinic that I went to in 2001 closed last summer before HB 2 passed. This clinic would have most certainly closed after Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into law because the physicians there would not have been able to gain admitting privileges at the local hospital.

Even with that clinic closed, I could have gone to a clinic in Houston or Austin for the procedure. If I went to Houston, I would have to have multiple clinic visits to meet the legal requirements placed on abortion clinics: one for the ultrasound and one for the abortion. I would have had to find a place to stay, because my family didn’t know about my pregnancy and would not have been supportive of my decision to have an abortion. If I went to Austin, I could have applied for the waiver of the 24-hour waiting period after the mandatory ultrasound. Either way, I would have had to travel about 85 to 100 miles to have the procedure. And as a student without a job and without a car, that would have been impossible. Just impossible.

I don’t see how I could have done it. And if I couldn’t find a way to do it, what does that mean for so many other Texas women? There are so many other barriers that prevent women from accessing abortion—including transportation and financial issues, like I had. But sometimes there are so many more, including arranging child care, finding a place to stay for multiple appointments, time off of work, not being able to tell their partner or family, not having a photo identification, not speaking English, lacking documentation of legal status to pass immigration check points while traveling—the list goes on.

For someone in those shoes today, HB 2 simply makes abortion impossible to access. If I were 12 years younger, I would have a very different life, and that is difficult to accept.

Although I am confident that if I needed an abortion tomorrow, I would be able to get one—I could fly to New Mexico or California and get the procedure—and I know many women who could, and would if they needed to; those women are not the ones I’m worried about. The ones I’m worried about are the students (high school, university, law students), part-time hourly workers, recent immigrants, women who don’t speak English, ones who already have three children, the women who don’t know how to drive, don’t have a car, and now don’t have a clinic within 600 miles of where they live.

It doesn’t even matter if the restrictions in HB 2 are ruled unconstitutional—the damage is already done. Clinics are closing around the state, in anticipation of the surgical ambulatory center requirement, which goes into effect in September—a mere three months from now. Abortion access in Texas is irreparably damaged.

As the anniversary of the filibuster is quickly approaching, the initial shock has turned into a daily reality. My days are filled with meetings, my inbox is filled with emails from pro-choice and reproductive justice organizations, my friends are asking what they can do, and I can’t help but think about my abortion stories daily. They were easy decisions, which I don’t regret. They had such a profound impact on my life and where I am today. And I know that the barriers I faced were relatively low, especially in comparison to the barriers that Texans face as domestic violence survivors, gender non-conforming persons, and people without legal immigration status.

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