Clinics in States With Trigger Laws Are Already Shutting Down

It’s starting.

The medical operating room at Whole Woman’s Health in San Antonio, Texas.Eric Gay/AP

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The Supreme Court has, as anticipated, overturned the federal right to abortion as established in Roe v. Wade, allowing states that have been waiting for this moment to make their moves to ban abortion. However, as the timeline is unclear in some of those states, some clinics are immediately closing their doors to avoid pricey lawsuits and, at worst, potential arrests. In short, the ruling is already having a devastating impact on providers and, of course, patients desperate for the abortion care that has long been a constitutional right.

A Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen, Texas, was forced to turn away 22 patients today who had already consented to abortion care, and staff has been calling patients to cancel future appointments. This clinic is of specific importance for the population it serves—mostly low-income Latinx families—and its location in the Rio Grande Valley. Some residents of the Rio Grande Valley are undocumented, and it’s impossible to leave the Valley without going through a domestic Border Patrol checkpoint. There’s regular surveillance: Cameras often record cars that pass through and monitor interactions between agents and drivers. At checkpoints, armed US Customs and Border Protection agents inspect vehicles one at a time, and by passing through these checkpoints, undocumented people risk the very thing they are likely seeking—abortion care to protect their families and their lives. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: The overturning of Roe will impact everyone, but low-income pregnant people and pregnant people of color will carry the heaviest burden. 

Planned Parenthood clinics, too, across Texas have ceased abortion services. “The pause in our abortion care,” said Jeffrey Hons, the president of Planned Parenthood South Texas, “is the right thing to do so that we have time to ensure that Planned Parenthood organizations remain compliant with the law.”

As of publication, Alabama, South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kentucky have all banned abortion. As my colleague Noah Kim points out, Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas have 30-day periods within which the trigger laws will take effect. (Tennessee’s attorney general just proposed implementing a six-week ban on abortion immediately, with an outright ban to take effect in the 30-day window.) Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, for its part, is pledging to keep its clinics’ doors open for as long as possible, though the clinic in Nashville is closed today for inventory and staff training, CEO Ashley Coffield says.

This is just the beginning. Already it appears Florida and Virginia, two states where abortion has been fought over but that do not have any trigger laws, intend to move forward with 15-week bans on abortion. 

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