Analysis Abortion

No Undue Burden? What Texas’ HB 2 Means for Maria

Andrea Grimes

For a woman like "Maria," a representative 26-year-old living in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, obtaining a legal abortion procedure will now cost more than a month's wages, not to mention considerable lost time. The car ride alone will take her about seven hours—a trip you can experience yourself in the following videos.

Read more of our articles on Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law here.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has ruled that the State of Texas can now enforce HB 2, the omnibus anti-choice law that mandates that legal abortion facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. HB 2 was opposed as medically unnecessary—and even dangerous—by state- and national-level major medical associations. Anti-choice lawmakers claimed, against all evidence to the contrary, that HB 2 would increase the “health and safety” of Texans who seek legal abortion care.

The law also bans abortion after 20 weeks, and severely limits the provision of medication abortion.

In light of this ruling, here are the burdens women like Maria will face.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Maria* is a representative 26-year-old woman living in Harlingen, Texas, who finds herself pregnant. She is unable to have another child right now.

Maria works full time—more often, up to 60 hours a week—for minimum wage at a laundromat in Harlingen about 30 miles from Matamoros, Mexico. Before anti-choice lawmakers passed HB 2, she could have accessed legal abortion care near her home in Harlingen, or traveled 40 minutes away to McAllen for similarly safe, legal abortion care.

Like two-thirds of people who seek abortion care in the United States, Maria is a mom. She’s raising a 3-year-old, but José’s father is out of the picture. She wants a better life for José and hopes to be able to see him go to college.

Based on a workweek of 40 hours, we calculate that Maria takes home $267.81 a week after taxes (about $1,071 a month or about $12,855 a year). When she is able to get as many as 60 hours a week, she takes home $401.72 ($1,607 a month or about $19,283 a year). Rent, gas, utilities, food, clothing, and health care for José, who has had chronic ear infections, eat up her disposable income.

Usually, Maria’s aunt takes care of her son while she’s at work, but her aunt, who has diabetes and has high blood pressure, has been in poor health. Maria is concerned about the pressure it would put on her to watch José for two days without a break, and does not want her aunt to worry about Maria traveling 500 miles round-trip to what is now the closest legal abortion clinic, located in San Antonio.

click to enlarge
Undue Burden infographic

Maria is nine weeks pregnant. She wants to obtain an abortion so she can focus her efforts on raising José and lifting her family out of poverty. She doesn’t want to risk taking pills obtained illegally at a flea market, and she knows that using something like a bleach douche or a coat hanger to end her pregnancy could kill her, leaving José without his mom.

Maria will have to hire a babysitter. Her lowest-cost option is to hire a student from the University of Texas Pan-American or UT Brownsville to care for José for two days. If she can not find one available whom she trusts to care for José overnight and for many hours on end, she will have to engage a professional nanny service at a much higher cost. She’s also worried about her car, a 10-year-old Chevy that’s broken down twice in the last year, and is in need of new tires and new brakes, for which she has been saving a little at a time.

Once she’s found child care, Maria makes an appointment at the nearest legal abortion provider in San Antonio, and she knows that she’ll need to spend at least 36 hours away from home. She’s requested at least two days off work—time off that will cost her $107 on a week when she has two shifts during that period and $161 in lost wages during a week when she’s successfully secured three shifts. She’s going to leave her home around noon on a Tuesday, and head to the San Antonio hotel room she’s reserved mere days in advance of her procedure, knowing that the lost income will make a tight budget even tighter.

On Wednesday, she’ll have a state-mandated ultrasound. Because Maria lives more than 100 miles from a legal abortion facility, she can bypass the government-required 24-hour waiting period between the ultrasound and surgical abortion, which together will cost her around $500. Medication abortion administered with pills would be a more affordable option for many patients in Texas. This is, however, not an option for women like Maria, because, despite medical protocol and evidence-based medical practices that say otherwise, Texas law now mandates she visit her doctor four separate times if she opts for medication abortion, making this ostensibly cheaper and safe option inaccessible to a person who lives 250 miles from the nearest legal abortion provider.

It’s possible that after Maria’s ultrasound, she’ll have her legal abortion procedure and be able complete the nearly four-hour drive home late at night, relieving the babysitter she’s hired at a rate of around $350 per day. More likely, by the time she gets in and is done, she’ll need to stay another night in San Antonio.

If that’s the case and she needs to spend two nights in San Antonio, Maria will wake up early and drive home to Harlingen Thursday morning—having driven close to eight hours round trip over two days (if traffic is reasonable and she has no problems with her car) to access a legal abortion procedure that, a year ago, she could have gotten minutes from her home.

All told, obtaining a legal abortion procedure will cost her between $1,101.00 and $1,599.00 depending on the number of nights away from home—more than a month’s wages, lost time, and considerable personal worry. This, according to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, does not constitute an undue burden.

Below, you can join Maria on her entire journey from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio and back—if, that is, you have seven or so hours to spare.

*Maria is a fictional woman, whose life circumstances are based on evidence gathered from talking to Texas travel professionals, parents, and child-care workers, and from calculations based on data from PayCheckCity, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Google Maps.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.