The United States Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade has an immediate impact on abortion access here in Texas with the limited number of abortion providers in the state shutting down amid legal uncertainty.
The court ruled 6-3 to uphold a Mississippi law at the heart of the abortion case and 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade more than a month after the leak of a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito indicating the court was prepared to reverse a precedent for a constitutionally protected right.
The decision Friday means abortion policy is left up to the states to set their own laws regulating the procedure. Texas is one of 13 states that have laws or constitutional amendments in place, so-called “trigger laws,” which could be quickly used to ban abortion upon the formal judgment to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Jeffrey Hons, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Texas, said abortion services at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas and Planned Parenthood South Texas have all ceased.
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“We must pause abortion services at our separate organizations while our legal teams continue to review today’s devastating ruling and how it impacts and triggers existing Texas laws, including total abortion bans,” Hons said Friday.
The doors at the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center remained open Friday with staff at the Dallas clinic telling NBC 5 it is still offering reproductive health care but that it has been forced to stop providing abortion services effective immediately after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade.
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Instead, it is referring women to its clinic in New Mexico, a 10-hour drive from Dallas-Fort Worth.
Tania Hernandez of Garland said she was in shock learning the ruling early Friday.
“It’s devastating,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, one of several groups organizing a rally in support of reproductive rights on Friday evening in downtown Dallas.
She says while some women may have the means to travel out of state, she is worried for many more, mainly young women from communities of color, who cannot.
“For a woman to have a child, an unwanted child they can’t afford, or a family to have a child that they can’t afford, is devastating.”
Outside the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth on Friday, signs were placed outside their doors indicating they have also closed. President and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said they had to call hundreds of their Texas patients Friday to cancel appointments.
“Today I am both heartbroken and outrage. I’m disgusted and even more committed. I’m saddened for the future of the United States. I’m horrified about what this says about how our country views and treats women, pregnant people and families,” Hagstrom Miller said. “Justice Alito and his accomplices have delivered one of the worst self-inflicted wounds this nation has ever suffered. They have endorsed a full scale of salt on every single person who is or may become pregnant under this rule.”
Whole Woman’s Health operates four clinics in Texas, along with clinics in other states. Hagstrom Miller said they are doing what they can to support their Texas patients. This includes helping people migrate out of the state to receive care, she said.
“Pregnant people deserve better. Families deserve better. Literally, every living person deserves better than this appalling failure of compassion, decency, and humanity,” she said.
PREGNANCY CENTERS EXPECTED TO INCREASE
Until now, one of the area’s only abortion clinics, Southwestern Women’s, shares the same northeast Dallas office complex with a pregnancy center.
BirthChoice Dallas offers women considering abortion counseling, pregnancy tests and maternal assistance.
Texas has the most pregnancy centers in the U.S., a figure that is expected to grow after today’s ruling.
Ronda Kay Moreland, chairman of the board for BirthChoice Dallas said in a statement that the organization had been praying for an end to abortion since it opened in 2009.
“Although many of the services we provide will remain unchanged, in order to continue to meet our clients where they are currently in their lives, our approach will coincide along our clients’ evolving needs,” Moreland said. “In the coming months, we will roll out various new programs and approaches to continue our commitment of care for our clients who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies.”
ANTI-ABORTION ADVOCATES REACT
Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, described Friday as a victory for their movement.
“This is something the pro-life, anti-abortion movement has been working towards for 50 years,” Parma said. “We’re celebrating but also recognizing that this isn’t the end of the story. It’s the end of the chapter.”
Texas Right to Life helped draft Senate Bill 8, dubbed the “Heartbeat Act” which banned abortions in Texas as early as six weeks. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions.
“The reason that we think these abortion issues should be at the state level is because every state’s constituency is very different,” Parma said. “This is very contentious issue, right? It’s been that way since 1973 with Roe v. Wade. It’s stayed that way. Those contentious issues need to be decided in the legislative branch where that kind of political debate happens and not in the judiciary.”
Parma said their movement still has work to do.
“We want to build a pro-life Texas. We want to be abortion free but also pro-life, so leaning into those policy areas like funding the alterative to abortion programs. Making sure pregnant students don’t feel like they have to choose between dropping out of school and having their child.”