A woman chants at the Alabama State Capitol during the March for Reproductive Freedom against the state’s new abortion law, the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, in Montgomery, Alabama, May 19, 2019.
Michael Spooneybarger | Reuters
West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa has canceled 100 appointments for women scheduled to have abortions this week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and opened the door for states to prohibit the procedure.
Alabama swiftly banned abortion on Friday after the court decision. Anyone in the state who performs an abortion would face up to 99 years in prison.
Three patients came to West Alabama Women’s Center early Monday who either didn’t get the message that their appointment was canceled, or who received notice but wanted to see if they could still get an abortion, said Robin Marty, director of operations at the clinic.
When the Supreme Court overturned the landmark decision on Friday, 21 patients were at the clinic for first-time appointments hoping to schedule abortions for this week, Marty said.
West Alabama Women’s Center is sending as many people as it can to Atlanta, where abortion remains legal for now, Marty said. Atlanta is a three- to four-hour drive from Tuscaloosa.
However, most of the patients who come to West Alabama Women’s Center are from out of state, which means the trip to Atlanta is much longer for them. Some patients come to West Alabama Women’s Center from as far away as Texas, which banned abortion after six weeks even before the top U.S. court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Every state that borders Texas except New Mexico has now outlawed the procedure. Louisiana banned abortion on Friday, but a judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect on Monday.
Places to go for the procedure are limited elsewhere in the South and Southeast.
Georgia could soon ban abortions after six weeks if a federal judge grants the state’s request to allow a 2019 law to go into effect. Alabama’s neighbor Mississippi is poised to ban abortion after a certification process, and the Florida Panhandle only has two clinics in Tallahassee. Florida is also poised to ban abortion after 15 weeks on Friday, though ongoing litigation could affect the law.
West Alabama Women’s Center is still providing follow-up care for people who had abortions before the ban and patients who have had miscarriages, Marty said.
The clinic was one of two in Alabama open five days a week because it has a full-time doctor, according to Marty. It’s rare to have a full-time doctor all week at abortion clinics in the Deep South, she added. Marty said that most physicians do not live in the states where they perform abortions because the region is hostile to the procedure.
This meant that many clinics in the Gulf could only offer abortions a couple days a week, when the doctor was in town. But the flood of patients from Texas after the six-week ban went into effect overwhelmed them, Marty said.
Georgia is now likely to see the next wave of patients coming from Southern states with bans.
More women will likely turn to the abortion pill as clinics close and travel distances become too great. Although it’s illegal to prescribe the pill in Alabama, patients can still order it online from overseas or travel to other states and bring the medication back with them.
The abortion pill, mifepristone taken with misoprostol, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy before the 10th week. But as with any medication, complications can occur.
Marty said some women who have had complications from the pill or thought they were having complications have been refused care at emergency rooms at some hospitals in Alabama.
“Anyone who is having any sort of pregnancy complication needs to understand that there is nothing that they need to say to a doctor when they go in other than ‘I’m pregnant — I’m scared and I think I’m having a miscarriage,”’ Marty said. “That is all the information that they need to provide. Doctors owe them an examination. Emergency rooms owe them medical care.”
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