The Oklahoma City Trust Women clinic, where Tong has been working this week, is now booking patients for about three weeks out. On Monday and Tuesday, as the Texas ban loomed, the clinic scheduled 80 appointments. Although a handful of red states have passed similar six-week bans over the last two years, they’ve all been halted by court challenges. But rather than relying on the state government to enforce its ban, Texas has outsourced that role to its own citizens: Now, people can sue individuals who they suspect of helping someone break the law and get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Abortion providers, people who help patients pay for abortions, anyone who helps drive patients to an abortion clinic, and countless other people could be in the crosshairs of these anti-abortion vigilantes. Texas abortion providers have sued over the law, in a challenge that made it all the way up the Supreme Court, but the justices let it go into effect early Wednesday morning. Then, just before midnight that same day, they officially voted 5-4 to allow it to continue, because the case raised “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” that remain unaddressed by the abortion providers.
The affiliate is so booked that it’s scheduling patients in for appointments in late September.
When she saw the Supreme Court vote, Tong said, “My mind immediately was like, ‘Oh no, what’s gonna happen in Mississippi? What’s gonna happen to the laws here, in Oklahoma?’ We’re surrounded by states that don’t have any protections for abortions.”Joan Lamunyon Sanford is the executive director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which helps people pay for transportation, lodging, and other costs associated with getting an abortion. She thinks that demand for her group’s services will at least double after the Texas ban.“We have never had to turn anyone down and I don’t want to start now,” Lamunyon Sanford said. In all of 2020, the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice helped just over 200 people. Now, with three months left to go in 2021, the group has already helped almost that many.“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years, and we’ve never seen anything like this,” Lamunyon Sanford said. Abortion providers did get a taste of what the Texas ban may bring in spring 2020, when abortion access flickered in Texas in and out. At the time, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was attempting to use the coronavirus pandemic as a justification to shut down Texas abortion clinics, resulting in a protracted legal battle that spurred mass panic, confusion, and an exodus of abortion patients into Texas’ surrounding states.
“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years, and we’ve never seen anything like this.”
And, beyond all of those obstacles, Planned Parenthood’s patients from Texas, she said, are emotionally wrung out.“We’re already this week seeing patients who are coming in who have literally been terrorized in their own state,” she said. “They have high levels of shame, high levels of stigma. They’re exhausted. They’re scared. With this new law granting citizens the right to be vigilantes and sue people, that has an impact on people’s emotional health.”Others are trying to help as well. The Texas Equal Access Fund, an abortion fund, announced on Wednesday that hundreds of volunteer applications had been submitted since the enactment of the ban."Since Tuesday evening, Whole Woman's Health Alliance has seen a flood of donations pouring in from supporters in Texas and across the country,” Sonja Miller, director of people and culture at Whole Woman's Health, a group of abortion clinics, told VICE News in an email. “The total as of Friday morning is more than $260k.”“Texas deserves to be able to have the full spectrum of health care that they need,” said Kamyon Connor, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund. “I don’t think any amount of money is actually going to ever be enough.”
“We’re already this week seeing patients who are coming in who have literally been terrorized in their own state.”