“I don't want to live in Texas anymore. I feel like I can't make a decision for myself, for my body, and my family. I feel like these decisions are being made for me and I feel like I'm trapped.”
Sadler’s tone was empathetic but matter-of-fact as she walked the patient through her options to get an abortion in neighboring states, which range from more friendly towards abortion rights (New Mexico, Colorado) to ones that are nearly as restrictive as Texas (Oklahoma, Louisiana). Sadler offered the patients referrals to organizations that could help her pay for the abortion and all the costs of going out of state, as well as to groups that could help the patient if she wanted to continue the pregnancy.“I really do apologize for our ridiculous state and these rules,” Marva told the patient. “I keep telling people, watch the news. This thing is unfolding day by day at this point. So who knows? Maybe we get some relief here soon and we can continue forth.”Hours after Marva gave that patient the news, the Biden administration sued Texas over the ban, which it said “clearly violates the Constitution.” But, right now, it’s impossible to know whether that legal challenge will be fast or decisive enough to help women like Jasmine. Sadler, like a few other clinic staffers, wore a T-shirt that listed the abortion rights’ movement’s victories at the Supreme Court in bright, colorful font, including Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide. (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a 2016 case that had been waged by the very group behind the Fort Worth clinic, was rendered in sparkly purple.)
“First, it’s abortions, then it’s women aren’t allowed to do anything.”
At just five weeks pregnant, 23-year-old Felicity was one of the few who were able to go through that whole process. Like most abortion patients, she’s given birth before; she has two children. And while the national battle over abortion may suggest that there are just two camps—those who support abortion rights and those who don’t—her views on the topic were far more nuanced. She has sympathy for some of the thinking behind the Texas ban.“This is a new life that's trying to be born. And it's not fair that that life did not get a chance,” Felicity said. If she were too deep into her pregnancy to end it in Texas, Felicity said she would have been “a little depressed at first.” But she would have, ultimately, raised the child.
“For the Supreme Court to just simply decide to step away and walk away from me, really made me feel like the war was over and we had lost.”
As I left, most assumed that I was there for an abortion. The man with the loudspeaker told me, “I’m a sad old man. I can’t hurt you.” Another, young-looking man stood on the sidewalk, with a camera trained on the clinic. “Keep the baby,” he urged me.As I stood outside, talking on the phone, he swiveled his camera to film me.“We're surveilled every day by anti-abortion activists. They literally stand out on our sidewalk every single day and call us by name as we attempt to enter our job,” Marva Sadler said. “There's a $10,00 bounty being put on my head, my staff's head, for anyone who's willing to turn us in for what they think is performing an illegal abortion.”Gilad Thaler contributed reporting.
“There's a $10,00 bounty being put on my head, my staff's head, for anyone who's willing to turn us in for what they think is performing an illegal abortion.”