One Texas Woman Describes Her Abortion Hours Before the State’s Six-Week Ban Went Into Effect
Jen*, a 21-year-old, got an abortion at eight weeks on Tuesday, hours before SB 8 went into effectAbortionPolitics
Image: Scott Olsen
At midnight in Texas, a six-week abortion ban passed into effect. Though the law is unconstitutional, an insidious legal mechanism made it impossible for reproductive rights groups to preempt in court—and though they asked Supreme Court justices to step in and block the law, the court has so far failed to take any action, allowing the most severe abortion restriction in the country to be enacted.
Threatened with ruinous lawsuits from private citizens, who are deputized as the enforcers of the law, abortion providers have been forced to comply. Providers in the state saw as many patients as they could before the law’s September 1 cut-off; at Whole Woman’s Health, some patients had their abortions in the final minutes before midnight.
Jezebel spoke with a 21-year-old woman, Jen*, a sex worker and employee at a Texas donut shop, who learned she was eight weeks pregnant last week. (Jen is a pseudonym Jezebel is using because she fears reprisal from anti-abortion activists.)
After being turned away from nearly every abortion clinic in her area—all of which were booked with patients desperate for appointments—Jen finally got through to Houston Women’s Clinic, which performed an abortion for her mere hours ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.
Jen said if the clinic hadn’t had a last-minute opening, she wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel out of state, and she was sick with worry that she would’ve had to continue the pregnancy. Here’s her account of her experience in her own words, as told to Jezebel:
I started worrying I was pregnant when I missed two of my periods. The first one didn’t really worry me because I wasn’t really thinking about it. But then I missed the second one and got really sick, and I thought, Oh this is morning sickness. I took a first test and I didn’t really believe it, but then when the second one came back positive too I went to the hospital and they confirmed it.
They didn’t really give me much information at the hospital—they just told me I was in the first trimester and said congratulations. I was like, This is not a congratulations kind of moment for me. I guess that’s just their normal reaction, but I wasn’t very happy that I was pregnant obviously.
That was last Wednesday. I heard about the Texas law in June, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it. When I found out I was pregnant I called my best friend and she was like, “You know they’re banning abortion next week.” I was like, “Are you serious?” I didn’t think the law would go through because it’s so ridiculous, in my opinion.
Every since I was a teenager—and then especially when I started doing sex work— I knew that if I got pregnant I would get an abortion. I know Texas is very conservative, and I figured there might be a lot of judgment and it might be a little hard, but I never seriously considered that I wouldn’t be able to get an abortion at all.
After I got off the phone with my friend I started freaking out. I called pretty much every abortion clinic in my area that I could get to. At first, I called Planned Parenthood because I wasn’t really sure about what other abortion clinics there were. But Planned Parenthood said they were completely booked until next week. I googled a bunch of clinics and I was also calling every OB/GYN to see if they could prescribe the abortion pill. I was thinking that I was not going to be able to get an abortion, or that I would have to go out of state, and I was really worried and sad and crying. I was calling all of these places and they kept saying no, and a couple of places I called didn’t do abortions at their clinics and they tried to convince me to come see them so they could talk me into keeping it.
I had to leave early from work twice last week—on Sunday and then on Tuesday—because I was vomiting and I kept getting dizzy and almost passing out. I ended up taking off the rest of the week too. This whole past week I’ve felt so nauseous every day just thinking about if I had to stay pregnant. It might have been partly morning sickness, but it also was anxiety. I was just sitting in bed watching Futurama and sitting with my cat, cuddling her. I was so sad and worried and I couldn’t get out of bed. I was lucky for my friend because she brought me food and tried to cheer me up.
Then I finally got through to Houston Women’s Clinic, and I got lucky—they had an available appointment on Monday and said I could come back on Tuesday. The first appointment is to see how far along you are and then there’s a consultation to see if you actually want to do it. After that, you have to wait 24 hours before you can come back and get the actual procedure.
When I went for the consultation they told me I was eight weeks along and they scheduled me for a 10 a.m. appointment for the next day. When I went for my second appointment, there was a protester in the parking lot when I showed up and he ran up to my Uber driver and handed him a card. It was advertising free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, and free consultation and then it had a number to reserve an abortion pill. So they were outside trying to trick women. When I left the clinic there were more protesters outside with signs and stuff.
The clinic was packed. There were about 30 to 35 chairs in the clinic, and all of them were full at some point. Some people were standing up waiting and people were also waiting outside and in their cars. Because the clinic overbooked themselves to fit everyone in, people had to wait a few hours before they could be called to come in for their procedure. They were going full throttle trying to get to everyone.
Honestly, I would not have been able to go out of state—even the cost of the actual abortion dented my pocket a lot.
The first appointment was $100 and the second one was $500. With my job at the donut shop, that’s probably about two paychecks. With sex work, I make a little more, so that’s maybe three or four visits. After I scheduled the appointment and I had a couple of people hit me up, thank god, and they wanted some expensive stuff. So I had to get on my shit and do that and make the money because I don’t really have savings.
If I had to leave the state … I probably would have had to wait longer to have the abortion so I could save up. I was really worried I would end up having to have the baby.
It would’ve been an even bigger financial hit if I had to leave the state because I wouldn’t be able to do either one of my jobs. I would’ve had to go to—gosh, I don’t even know which state, and I would’ve had to miss probably five or six days. Texas is big and I live near the middle of the state, so it would’ve been very difficult and inconvenient. Plus I probably would have had to wait longer to have the abortion so I could save up. I was really worried I would end up having to have the baby.
The procedure was only one to three minutes but they give you a sedative and some antibiotics and pain medication, and then you have to wait about two and a half hours after that. Then they call your ride and you’re out of there. It was my first abortion.
My family growing up was very conservative, so obviously I adopted their views. When I got older—13 or 14—I got more into social justice and I started to be a big [abortion rights] supporter. I feel like it’s not anyone else’s decision but your own. Anti-abortion activists aren’t the one who’s going to have to take care of the baby or give up the baby if you choose adoption. So it’s really no one else’s business.
I’m not really in any pain. There’s just a little bit of bleeding, but not too much, and cramps on and off, but not severe. I feel a little woozy from the sedative still, but other than that if feel very fine and very happy. I feel so relieved—this is a big weight off my shoulders. I’m just so happy I was able to do it the day before the ban and it’s so sad that women here are going to have so much trouble now.