AUSTIN (KXAN) — We’re now seeing the impact of decisions made by leaders during the earliest days of the pandemic on women’s health in Texas.
At least one clinic in Austin says more women sought abortions later in their pregnancies this spring. It came after the state temporarily halted elective surgeries, including most abortions.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order was signed March 22. Planned Parenthood and other groups sued Abbott and other state officials in what became a month-long legal battle.
Clinics were allowed to continue abortions exactly one month later, following an updated order from the governor that eased restrictions.
By that time, many patients were no longer able to receive an abortion using medication, which is only offered in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in Texas.
“A lot of them felt a sense of anxiety and panic, which they’re already dealing with with the pandemic,” said Soroya Dadras, clinic director at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin.
She says when the executive order was signed, the clinic had to cancel nearly 100 abortions.
“Many of them were going to places like New Mexico or Oklahoma,” she said.
But Dadras tells us many women didn’t have the financial means to go out of state. At Whole Woman’s Health, the number of surgical abortions nearly doubled in the weeks after the ban, compared with before.
According to NBC News, who broke the initial story, other clinics in Texas saw a more than 50% increase in second-trimester abortions.
“Asking women to wait was cruel in that sense, because there’s so much more involved financially when you want to do a second trimester procedure,” said Dadras.
At the close of business Wednesday, Abbott’s office had not responded to request for comment on this story.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project is a reproductive health policy research project based at the University of Texas. The group is currently studying the full impact of the governor’s month-long ban on women’s reproductive health in the state.
“Based on our patient survey, most clients seeking care (88%) were eligible for medication abortion at the time of their initial consultation and ultrasound visit,” reads a March research brief from the group.
“If patients have to wait four weeks until the executive order expires, fewer than half (48%) would still be able to get this method if they want it.”
The paper adds that a growing number of women seeking abortion care in Texas use medication abortion, which can be done in the privacy of one’s own home.
Dr. Kari White, who works for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, said the vast majority of women in Texas already live more than 100 miles from a clinic.
“For those who were delayed, they likely had increased costs of getting care, because procedures later in pregnancy are more expensive,” said White.
She added there are fewer clinics offering abortions later in pregnancy, and these facilities may not be able to provide care for all those who need it.
“Some women also may have tried to end their pregnancies on their own,” she said.