Money Management

This researcher interviewed 600 women in abortion clinics in Texas. This is what she saw.

AUSTIN – Pre-abortion drugs were working and the seven women in a light pink waiting room were training through dizziness and chills.

“It’s okay, you have this,” said one woman.

“I’m sleepy,” said another, curled up in a comfortable chair. About half of them had a blanket and a place to curl up at this point before the procedure.

Elsa Vizcarra’s job that day was to try and interview them all. Vizcarra, a University of Texas researcher, spent most of a year sitting with nearly 600 abortion patients at a dozen Texas clinics to figure out what drove women to these wards. expectation and the obstacles they encountered in getting there. This story is based on her account of some of those conversations and clinic visits – Vizcarra and the UT research team of which she is a part hid details about the location of the clinics and the women interviewed, in order to to protect their privacy.

Above all, she was struck by their resilience – to travel over 100 miles going back and forth to their appointments to view state-mandated ultrasound images of the fetus, then coming back 24 hours later to take pills or procedures to terminate their pregnancy. Walk past protesters, some of them belligerent, every time they enter the building, shaming them with Bible verses and rosaries.

Abortion in Texas

Texas annually publishes data on abortions performed here and on Texans across the country. Here are the statistics for 2016, the latest year available.

Total number of abortions reported in Texas: 54,507

Abortions by age:

12-13 years – 38

14-15 years – 362

16-17 years old – 1,135

18-19 years – 3,520

20-24 years old – 16,126

25-29 years old – 15,011

30-34 years – 9,693

35-39 years – 5,582

40 and over – 1,866

Abortions by race / ethnicity

Asian – 3 097

Hispanic – 20,252

White – 14,984

Black – 14 011

Native America – 169

Other – 643

None specified – 201

Abortions by marital status

Married – 9,217

Unmarried – 44 114

Not stated – 26

Abortions per week of gestation

10 weeks or less – 43,085

11-12 weeks – 4,207

13-14 weeks – 2,685

15-16 weeks – 1,551

17-18 weeks – 897

19-22 weeks – 835

23-27 weeks – 64

28+ weeks – 12

Not stated – 21


“I don’t think most people know what it’s like to go to an abortion clinic,” said Vizcarra, study coordinator for the University of Texas at the Austin Population Research Center and the Texas Policy Evaluation Project. Now she knows it.

The vast majority of women Vizcarra spoke to knew the challenges they would face, she said, and were willing to share their stories.

“No experience is universal,” she said. “We are conducting this study to find out what is going on, what the state is like. And I think people are receptive to that.

The Republican-led legislature has strategically created more than a dozen laws to discourage women who want to terminate their pregnancy. Texas is one of a dozen states that require fetal pain counseling. Other laws require women to wait at least 24 hours after a first appointment to have an abortion, and to receive information about the procedure that doctors deem flawed, and other obstacles in the hope that women change their mind.

While Texas abortion laws are among the strictest in the country and have been struck down or blocked by the courts on several occasions, there is no doubt that the strategy is working: the number of abortions in Texas has risen from 81,000 to 54,500 in a decade. About two-thirds of abortion clinics have closed since 2011; now there are 21 in a state of 268,000 square miles.

“We don’t just do research for fun – we assess policy and the impact of state regulations and funding on women across Texas,” said Vizcarra who is leading other research on the issue. access to contraception for women two years after childbirth. “We are measuring the barriers that these regulations place on access to abortion.”

A previous three-year study found that Texas women walked an average of 42 miles to their abortion clinic. Of about 300 women surveyed by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, nearly a quarter said it was difficult to get to their appointments, and nearly a third said the 24-hour wait period had a “negative effect on their emotional well-being”.

The 2014 report also found that 92% of women were sure about their decision before and after viewing the ultrasound of the fetus, which lawmakers demanded in 2011.

“Ma’am, you don’t have to do this. ”

Vizcarra, a native of Katy, began touring the state in May on her quest, which took her to 12 different abortion clinics, often in a rental car, looking for 50 women at each location on the not having an abortion or recovering from an abortion. They must have been between 18 and 44 years old.

In nearly every clinic she visited – from east Texas to the Rio Grande Valley to most of the state’s major cities – the day started with protesters, usually two to eight d ‘between them, mainly men. Once, a group of 10 people stood in front of his car, preventing him from entering the parking lot.

As with any event, the groups grew in good weather. Of course, they would assume she was there for an abortion. Usually they started out well.

“Ma’am, you don’t have to do this. “

They insisted that she take a rosary or religious alms. They would become more and more intense as she ignored them.

“Come talk to me.”

“You don’t know what you are doing.”

“They would become more and more belligerent the more you ignored them,” Vizcarra said. She knew she wasn’t their target, but “when you have men yelling at you, telling you you’re going to hell, it’s just an added burden.”

No insurance for this visit to the doctor

While people were shouting outside abortion clinics, the interior is generally as quiet as any other doctor’s waiting room: reruns of The Office or Marvel movies on TV, the patients are often accompanied by partners or friends.

“It’s not that dark place and everyone is depressed,” Vizcarra said. “It takes so long for women to go through the process. It’s like a very long doctor’s appointment.

Vizcarra, with a calm voice and brown eyes without judgment, would ask them to participate in the study while they waited. When did they know they were pregnant? When did they decide to seek treatment? Did they try to terminate their pregnancy on their own? She asked them how they found the clinic and how they got there that day, whether they went to an emergency pregnancy center first and how much they were paying for the procedure. What contraception did they use, did they have insurance, what did they know about abortion regulation in the state.

A woman with children took out a payday loan to cover her abortion, Vizcarra said. The woman, who lived in the country, also had to pay someone twice to drive her to the nearest clinic – once for the initial appointment, the second time for the procedure. If she waited longer, she might need more expensive surgery.

Another woman was an insurance professional who did not realize that the state prohibited both private insurance and Medicaid from covering abortion procedures. This law was passed in 2017.

“They know they’re in a time crisis, basically. If they want to have a medical abortion, they have to do it on time, and they have to have the money to do it, and they have to have transportation, and be absent from work, and sometimes they have children, ” Vizcarra said. “They know what is going on is not helping them.”

“Make abortion unnecessary”

Abortion advocates say Texas laws – requiring providers to provide women with state-produced brochures on the risks of abortion, requiring parental consent for minors to have abortions, and increasing funding for family planning programs offered by anti-abortion groups. -abortion – are necessary for ensure that women have time to consider alternatives.

“Considering that this is an irreversible procedure that will cost an unborn child the life, one day is worth it,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “The goal is to make abortion unnecessary in the minds of every woman with practical solutions.”

Texas lawmakers want to go harder abortion laws this year. House and Senate lawmakers are pushing bills that would make it illegal to abort a fetus with an anomaly and ban abortions after six weeks gestation, among others. One measure would make abortion a crime punishable by death – although a similar law has already been ruled unconstitutional under the 1973 Roe v Wade decision in federal court.

Bills most likely to become law include a bill that would cut government contracts with Planned Parenthood and its affiliated organizations that provide non-aborted services such as STD testing, HIV awareness and preventive health care. Another would create new penalties for a doctor who don’t take care of a baby born after botched abortion – though Texas health officials have reported no case of what happens in Texas between 2013 and 2016, the most recent data available.

Vizcarra is still sifting through the data and analyzing the results with co-researchers from the UT Texas Policy Assessment Project. Results must be peer reviewed before they can be published. They plan to submit papers for publication later this year, possibly as early as August.