Two days after Texas’ new abortion restrictions went into effect, women’s health clinics in surrounding states were already juggling clogged phone lines and an increasing load of appointment requests from Texans.
At a clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, an abortion provider said that on Tuesday, the day before the law’s enactment, every patient who had made an appointment online was from its neighbor state to the east. By Thursday, all of New Mexico’s abortion clinics were reportedly booked up for weeks, and a Dallas center had dispatched dozens of employees to help the much less populated state’s overtaxed system.
But for every Texan who is able to leave town to elude the new law, there are more who can’t.
“That’s the people that have a working car, that can get time off, who have somebody who can take care of their kids,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which covers New Mexico, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada. “There are going to be thousands of individuals who don’t have that wherewithal, and it’s really particularly going to impact women of color, young women, rural women.”
The Texas law prohibits abortions after doctors detect a “fetal heartbeat,” which can be as early as six weeks along, when many people still don’t know they are pregnant. Experts call the term misleading because embryos haven’t developed a heart by this stage, but do exhibit cardiac activity. The law does not exempt cases where someone was impregnated as a result of rape or incest.