Anti-choice toll laws have on real lives: UT researcher asked 603 women about barriers to abortion care in Texas

Elsa Vizcarra (photo by Jana Birchum)

A group of angry men carrying anti-choice posters camped near the abortion clinic. They shouted fair denunciations of the abortion, telling women who visited the center that they “didn’t know what they were doing”, and that the medical procedure amounted to murder. Elsa Vizcarra did his best to ignore them upon entering the clinic, but the rosaries and religious brochures pregnancy centers in crisis were pushed on it. And the more she ignored the demonstrators, the more belligerent they became. Even when a security guard sought to escort him safely to the clinic entrance from his car, he noted that the protesters were becoming more aggressive.

“It’s even worse when they try to obstruct the entrance or exit to the parking lot on the street,” Vizcarra said. “They knock on your window and force you to stop your car so they can talk to you and try to convince you not to have an abortion.”

Fortunately for Vizcarra, however, hostility from the religious right had no bearing on his mission at the clinic. the University of Texas The researcher was not there for a procedure, but to document the experiences of women seeking abortions in Texas. A series of anti-choice laws drafted by the GOP over the past few years has created a logistical maze for anyone to navigate an already hostile and resource-depleted healthcare environment. Vizcarra, under the direction of UT Texas Policy Assessment Project (TxPEP) – a multi-year study examining the impact of strict state regulations on reproductive rights – visited a dozen abortion clinics across the state in 2018. During a road trip no Conventional, Vizcarra interviewed 603 women about the myriad barriers they faced in obtaining abortion care in Texas. “I don’t think a lot of people realize what it’s like to go to an abortion clinic in Texas,” she said. “It’s not a dark, hidden place – it’s an open-air medical facility.”

Vizcarra poll – the first conducted by TxPEP following the US Supreme Court ruling overturning the historic 2013 anti-choice Bill House 2, which has nonetheless closed half of the state’s abortion clinics – recalls the obstacles women still face in obtaining health care. Women face long journeys to an abortion clinic, where they have to make three appointments: one to receive one. mandatory ultrasound fetus, followed by the procedure 24 hours later, then a third follow-up visit. A 2016 TxPEP study found that the average distance to the nearest provider in Texas quadrupled after HB 2. The average one-way distance to the nearest abortion provider among women whose nearest clinic closed was 70 miles, compared to the previous 17 miles. Reimbursable expenses and overnight stays have also increased.

This means that some women may forgo travel altogether: TxPEP 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that counties where the distance to the nearest facility increased by 100 miles or more saw a 50% drop in abortions. A previous study in addition, documented cases where multiple burdens have forced women to have an abortion later in pregnancy or, in a few cases, to continue with an unwanted pregnancy.

In cooperation with providers, Vizcarra spent entire days in clinic waiting rooms interviewing women, sometimes visiting a clinic more than once. She asked women about when they were pregnant and about the decision to seek treatment; their experiences of finding a clinic; and if they had first gone to an anti-choice emergency pregnancy center. She asked about access to medical abortion, the use of birth control, insurance and out-of-pocket costs associated with their procedure, and women’s knowledge and perceptions of the regulations on birth control. abortion in Texas. “The women expressed many difficult points along the way, including access to transport, absence from work, finding daycare centers and traveling very far,” she said.

For example, a mother who worked in rural Texas, about 70 miles from the nearest abortion clinic, was forced to get a payday loan to cover her procedure. She did not have access to a car and had to rely on someone to drive her to the clinic for her ultrasound, then return after waiting 24 hours before the procedure. She couldn’t afford the third follow-up visit. Another woman had to make the long round trip to have an ultrasound twice because she couldn’t leave work to get to the clinic with the same doctor on time.

Many expressed surprise and confusion over state regulations: A working professional Vizcarra interviewed did not realize that lawmakers were banning private insurance from covering abortion care in 2017, and that ‘she would have to pay out of pocket for the procedure. This patient also delayed getting her first appointment for over two weeks because the clinic was so supported.

Beyond the barriers of cost and travel, women face conflicting activists camped near abortion centers who seek to shame them – a daily presence in many of the clinics visited by Vizcarra. His experience reflects a national trend. In 2018, the number of people attempting to intimidate female patients and disrupt services at abortion clinics continued to increase at an “alarming rate,” the National Abortion Federation in his last report on violence in abortion clinics. Since 2015, the number of reported anti-abortion protesters in clinics has more than quadrupled and acts of obstruction, such as trespassing, have skyrocketed by more than 1,000%. Harassment and vandalism have also increased.

“In addition to external stressors, such as having to come back due to mandatory waiting periods, women face the stigma caused by protesters,” Vizcarra said. “It was the first thing you encountered when you came to a clinic, and they were so loud, so vocal. It made the whole experience even more difficult. But I would say that despite all these obstacles, [the] women were so strong in the face of adversity. “

TxPEP is reviewing all of Vizcarra’s work and plans to release the study results this fall.

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