A single mother of a kindergartner who recently escaped a “very abusive” relationship. Health center staff in Oklahoma working overtime to care for an influx of Texas patients denied treatment. A mother of seven who recently lost her job.
Days after the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reinstated the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bars the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, several Planned Parenthood abortion providers in Texas and nearby states filed a brief detailing the “deeply personal real-life impact” of the ban on providers and patients.
“These Texas patients are uniformly terrified,” one nurse practitioner from Oklahoma told Planned Parenthood staff who conducted the interviews. The names of the patients and staff who shared their stories are all anonymous in the brief to protect their privacy.
The amicus brief — a legal brief often filed by a party with a strong interest in a case to endorse one side — was submitted in support of the US Department of Justice’s challenge to the law on Monday.
The ban had been lifted by US District Judge Robert Pitman last Wednesday night, who called it an “offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
But the preliminary injunction only lasted about 48 hours before the three-judge panel stepped in and granted the request by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to suspend the order blocking the law late Friday, which had halted nearly all abortions in the nation’s second-most populous state.
The series of narratives presented in the brief describes the impact of the law on Texans seeking to get an abortion as well as on out-of-state providers who have had their practice upended as they attempt to accommodate a wave of new patients.
One woman whose story was recounted in the brief is the single mother of a child in kindergarten, balancing school and work. She shared how she had just left a relationship with her daughter’s father who “was just really bad … very abusive” when she found out she was pregnant again.
She had suffered “horrible” abuse during the pregnancy, and after she had her daughter “it was even worse.” The news came as she was beginning to rebuild her life. But the woman was unable to get an abortion in Texas and her ability to receive care elsewhere was limited due to factors such as “missing work” and having to find childcare.
“It makes me really angry,” the woman said. “It makes me really sad.”
Another woman who was able to secure an abortion in another state said she suffers from a chronic disease for which she has been unable to “get medication for eight months.” She said she feared that the stress of the pregnancy would “kill her.”
The woman grew up in poverty, she said. And because she is not financially stable, she said she did not want that “cycle to happen again.” She wrote that she was also sexually abused while in the care of extended family when she was young, and said she could not trust anyone “to care for her child.”
If she had not been able to receive an abortion, the woman said she would “be looking online to see if there’s something [she] could eat that would [terminate the pregnancy], or throw [herself] down the stairs.”
Providers and staff working at clinics both in Texas and outside the state — including in Colorado and Oklahoma — also detailed at length the obstacles presented by the near-total abortion ban. Staff shared how they have cried with patients, tried to overcome language barriers, and attempted to assist those who feared traveling across state lines, such as one patient who was undocumented.
One Houston staffer said she and colleagues feel helpless and cry “after nearly every patient they turn away.” An Oklahoma staffer said those at her clinic are “working overtime” to care for Texans who had been denied abortions, and they now “comprise the majority of their patients.”
The Biden administration late on Monday night again urged the courts to suspend the highly restrictive abortion law. The Associated Press reported that it is unclear when the 5th Circuit court will decide whether to allow the law to continue to stand.