AUSTIN (KXAN) — The past few days have been “chaotic” for Dr. Jessica Rubino, a board-certified family medicine physician at Austin Women’s Health Center. A reproductive healthcare provider whose expertise includes abortion services, she’s been fielding a slew of questions and concerns from patients following the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling overturning Roe v. Wade Friday.
“It’s been very chaotic,” Rubino said. “Because we still don’t even — we’re still in this gray zone in Texas, where abortion isn’t even technically illegal, but it essentially is because of legal issues.”
The legal issue Rubino referred to is Texas’ “trigger law” in place, which would make abortion illegal 30 days after SCOTUS’ judgment. Following SCOTUS’ ruling Friday, many abortion providers preemptively paused services due to questions surrounding historic laws on the books that, if Roe was overturned, would restrict abortion access.
However, a Harris County District Court judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday that blocks an abortion plan put into place prior to the Roe v. Wade ruling, Texas Tribune reported.
While a temporary restraining order is in place in Texas, residents are still turning to alternative forms of preventative sexual healthcare in the wake of Roe’s reversal. Some urologists and gynecologists reported increased requests for vasectomies and tubal ligations in the hours following the decision. For Rubino, she said she’s fielded a slew of requests for intrauterine device inserts and birth control prescriptions.
“I’m having people call in to get more IUDs, more arm implants and other forms of birth control,” she said. “We’re happy to see those patients and get everybody in, but it’s all at the same time as having to discuss with each pregnant person that we were already caring for how they need to get out of the state or what their plan is going to be — if they’re going to continue their pregnancy or if they’re going to seek a termination somewhere.”
IUDs, arm implants and oral birth control are all forms of contraceptives used to minimize the risk of pregnancy for sexually active people. They’re advised as daily mitigation measures, while emergency contraceptives are available for use if other forms of birth control or preventative measures, like condoms, fail.
Forms of emergency contraceptives include over-the-counter medications like Plan B One Step, while prescription-based or physician-offered options include the oral ella pill or a copper IUD.
At Austin-based Tarrytown Pharmacy, pharmacy resident Fuller Currie said the business hasn’t seen a surge of people coming in to purchase emergency contraceptives, but he said they have seen a bump in people calling in and asking about supplies.
As for supplies, Currie said Tarrytown’s medication supplier has put a cap on the number of units of emergency contraceptives the pharmacy can purchase. He said this is likely a response to current demand spikes, which have been noted by national pharmacy brands across the country.
“When I looked earlier to see about ordering more medication, [the supplier is] limiting the amount that they will send me,” he said, adding: “I do think it is an increase in demand nationally, and so what they’re doing is they’re trying to make sure that they’ll spread the wealth so that everybody can have some.”
Emergency contraceptives weren’t included in the scope of SCOTUS’ ruling Friday, which applied specifically to federally protected access to abortion services statewide. Following SCOTUS’ decision, individual states will determine whether they will continue to legalize abortion care and if not, what those exact stipulations will be.
But the ruling has concerned some providers about the future of emergency contraceptive access, following a concurring opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In his ruling, he invited the possibility of future revisits to landmark rulings such as 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut and 1972’s Eisenstadt v. Baird, which legalized contraception access for both married and unmarried individuals.
Dr. Deborah McNabb, a retired abortion provider, stressed both emergency and oral contraceptives aren’t forms of abortion, as they prevent or delay ovulation and don’t terminate an existing pregnancy.
She said her concern is that Griswold v. Connecticut’s ruling was made on the basis of privacy, which was also used in Roe v. Wade’s initial 1973 ruling. Now that Roe has been overturned, she said that could set the stage for future challenges to contraception access.
“If the Supreme Court has said we’re throwing out the privacy argument with Roe v. Wade, they’re throwing it out for everything,” she said. “And yes, any form of contraception will be at risk.”
Dr. Kimberly Carter and Dr. Nancy Binford are both members of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Since Friday, Binford said she’s received a significant number of questions and calls from patients about emergency contraceptives, as well as reproductive procedures.
“There’s been such a run on trying to stock up on emergency contraception,” she said. “And then I’ve also had three patients in their 20s in the past two days ask me about tubal ligation — something that, patients in their 20s asking for a tubal ligation is an unusual event prior to Friday.”
Since Politico published the leaked Roe draft in May, Carter said she’s had patients, even those in their 50s, ask about IUDs as a way to exert extra caution against unplanned pregnancies.
“I’ve had to reassure some of my patients that you are not going to get pregnant at this point in your life, but I get the sentiment that they want to take no risk whatsoever,” Carter said.
Each expressed concerns about the potential implications that could come with future limits to contraception access if those landmark rulings are overturned.
“Everyone needs medical privacy and everyone ethically deserves bodily autonomy,” Binford said. “If we don’t provide birth control, we’re going to have more unplanned pregnancies.”
“Women need universal healthcare, which includes contraception. It is affordable childcare, and it’s maternity leave — do the things that make having a child easier,” Carter said.