Our CEO Shares: Six Months of Living Under SB 8

For 6 months now, we Texas abortion providers have faced unimaginable circumstances. Our clinic staff and doctors have worried they may be sued, just for showing up to work. For 6 months, we have heard the cries and pleas of Texans who have had their healthcare freedoms stripped away. And for these 6 months, clinics in neighboring states have strained to accommodate displaced Texans.

Just this week, one of our call center staff members shared that she “spoke with someone who was seen at one of our Texas clinics, but fetal heart tones were detected on her ultrasound. We gave her a list of referrals to clinics in surrounding states, but nowhere can see her for at least a month – they’re completely overloaded with Texas patients. She was suicidal on the phone. After crisis counseling, I managed to connect her with a clinic in Arkansas that looks like they can see her sooner.”

Every abortion ban creates a human rights tragedy. No where is that more evident than in Texas. Our Texas clinic staff have transformed clinic counseling sessions into grief support, layered with travel logistics navigation. They help patients manage the trauma of being denied the care they need, and support them to make sense of the very personal and scary struggles that come with a forced pregnancy. In many cases, there is nothing we can do for them but listen, hold their hand, and dry their tears. If you sat in on just one of these conversations, you would no longer think we are living in a country that calls itself the leader of the free world.

Last week a staff person shared that she “had to refer a patient out of state for care who was eight weeks pregnant and had planned to continue the pregnancy, but who had just received a cancer diagnosis after her first prenatal visit and needed to terminate to begin treatment right away. She was livid that she couldn’t access the care she needed without leaving the state, and I couldn’t blame her.”

We now see people calling for appointments even before a pregnancy is detectable, rushing in before they miss a period, afraid they will be denied the right to safe abortion if they need it.

Recently a staff member shared that they had a “lengthy email exchange with someone who is trying to determine whether or not she’ll be eligible for services. She hasn’t even had a positive test yet, but she knows how incredibly limited her time is once she finds out, and she’s terrified that her options will vanish before it’s even detected, especially as she is nearing menopause and her periods are less reliable than they used to be.”

These 6 months with SB8 are indescribable.

But we are not backing down. While we fight this ban in the courts, we are doing remarkable work on the ground:

  • We are piloting a program to help people migrate out of Texas for abortion, working alongside abortion funds and our allies to secure support for our patients.
  • We have launched a Virtual Abortion Care program using telemedicine to provide medication abortion by mail in New Mexico, Virginia, and Minnesota.
  • We are readying our clinics in the haven states of Virginia and Maryland to receive a potential influx of patients if Roe falls this summer.
  • And just today, we opened a nonprofit clinic in Minnesota, where Roe is codified, just five miles from the state’s largest airport, located at the intersection of two interstate freeways.

Like many abortion providers, Whole Woman’s Health is bringing this full court press to try and meet the needs of pregnant people in the US. But this is not a hero’s narrative; it is a tragedy. Abortion providers alone cannot fix this. Honestly, this should not be the reality of abortion in America.

Access to safe abortion over these last 49 years has made our communities and families safer and healthier. We know providing abortion is a moral good. Just listen to our patients in their own words:

People like Margaret, who said her “abortion helped to ensure her family was happy, healthy, and started on their own terms.”

Abby, who said they “left feeling reassured that there are good people here to help and hold each other up.”

And Celina, who said she “planned her pregnancy and was ready to become the mother she is today thanks to Whole Woman’s Health.”

These are a few stories out of hundreds we have listened to in these 6 months. These people are why we show up to fight every single day. Please join us.

Amy Hagstrom Miller
President & CEO
Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance