(HOUSTON) — A day after the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion law went into effect, doctors and advocates reported a steep decline in abortions across Texas.
Houston provider Dr. Bhavik Kumar said he normally performs between 20 to 30 abortions a day. Since the new law, he said he’s only seen six patients — and was forced to turn half of them away.
“Just yesterday I saw somebody who thought she was earlier in the pregnancy, but once she got here and had her ultrasound, found out she was much further along,” said Kumar, who works out of a Planned Parenthood. “She was crying and we began to explore options and think through the logistics of if she would be able to go out of state for the care that she needed.”
The new law bans physicians from providing abortions “if the physician detects a fetal heartbeat” including embryonic cardiac activity, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, and stipulates that any private citizen can sue a person who they believe is providing an abortion or assisting someone in getting an abortion in Texas after six weeks. A plaintiff could collect at least $10,000.
A 2018 study done by the National Institute of Health found that on average, women reported pregnancy awareness around five and a half weeks. As it applies to the study, this means an average pregnant woman would have a very slim margin to make a decision and appointment under the new Texas law.
Nearly 90% of women who are seeking abortions in the state are past their sixth week, abortion rights advocates in Texas told ABC News Thursday.
The Supreme Court formally refused to block the Texas abortion law Wednesday night, citing technical and procedural reasons.
In a 5-4 decision, five conservative-leaning justices voted to let the law remain in effect, without determining if it is constitutional.
For now, most women seeking abortions in Texas have been forced to do so in other states.
Rebecca Tong, who operates an abortion clinic in neighboring Oklahoma, said she’s become inundated with out-of-state calls.
“The phones have just been ridiculous,” said Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women. “About two-thirds of our call volume right now is Texas people.”
Tong said her average schedule consists of appointments for about 15 women a day. Since the law in Texas, the number has more than doubled.
“For a five to 10 minute procedure, to drive 600 miles in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “It’s cruel.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.