New data from Planned Parenthood facilities surrounding Texas are illuminating the human toll of the state’s notorious six-week abortion ban, as pregnant people flee to surrounding states to access care.
Abortion patients from Texas made up more than half of the total abortion patients at Oklahoma-based Planned Parenthood facilities from September to December 2021, compared to being less than 10 percent the previous year, according to new data released Thursday by the organization.
From September to December of last year, Planned Parenthood Great Plains health centers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas saw more than 1,100 patients from Texas, compared to just 50 patients from Texas in 2020. Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma continue to see more patients from Texas than Oklahoma only two months into 2022.
Dr. Iman Alsaden, medical director at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, prepared her staff for months for the patient influx due to S.B. 8. “If you ask someone where they’re coming from, you are more likely to hear they’re from Texas. It’s been hard,” she told Jezebel. “It’s hard to watch people [drive] four or five, six, seven hours to exercise their basic right. That’s taken a toll on everyone, on patients and providers as well.”
Planned Parenthood health centers surrounding Texas saw nearly 800 percent patient increase from the state in the six months following the passage of S.B. 8 compared to the previous year. In Colorado, there was a more than 1,000 percent increase in patients with Texas zip codes over prior years. New Mexico saw an increase of more than 100 percent in Texas patients.
These numbers show that outlawing abortion doesn’t stop the need for abortion. Instead, S.B. 8 further displaces people based in those states, requiring them to also leave their communities to access health care. “Having an influx of patients to a neighboring state also has the effect of causing appointment wait times to increase so people are waiting longer than normal to get appointments in our clinics,” Dr. Alsaden told Jezebel.
This means a patient in Oklahoma could end up in Illinois, even with operating clinic options nearby.
“We’ve seen so many patients in Oklahoma, in a state where there are already not that many abortion clinics, who were not able to schedule an appointment soon enough because the clinics are full. You’re seeing this displacement, people coming from Texas and displacing Oklahomans who should be able to get care in their communities,” she said.
In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a shortage, because clinics could stay open longer and have more abortion providers, she told Jezebel. But the reality on the ground is that there are only so many hours in the day and so many people who can work, so it’s important to keep them healthy enough to continue to provide care for the long term.
Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider at Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, said the confines of S.B. 8 further restrict an already very controlled state like Texas. Research released Thursday by the Guttmacher Institute showed that medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions in America. But abortion by telemedicine is illegal in Texas. “We know that these medications are safe. They’ve been approved for over 20 years,” he told Jezebel. “But again, states like Texas have chosen to reject science or contradict the years of research that showed that these medications work well and can be used safely.”