The phones started ringing, as they always did, moments after Houston Women’s Reproductive Services opened for business at 9 a.m. on Friday — with patients in need of abortions calling to secure a spot on the schedule.
Then, 12 minutes later, it all came to a stop. The Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade.
“Can we still do abortions today?” asked patient advocate Marjorie Eisen, thinking about the 20 women they had booked for appointments.
Several were already in the waiting room, scrolling through their phones as they waited.
“No,” said Kathy Kleinfeld, a co-owner of the clinic. “We’re done.”
A silence settled over the staff as they reckoned with the stunning news — and what it would mean for the patients they served every day.
For the first time since 1973, Americans would not have a constitutional right to abortion. The seismic ruling will transform life for millions of women years into the future. But on this steamy Friday morning in Texas, it came as an abrupt, life-altering change for the patients who would sit down in the waiting room that day, thinking they had found a solution to their unwanted pregnancies.
The state had already banned abortions at six weeks, but the end of Roe reinstituted an existing all-out ban enacted before the landmark precedent, making it instantly illegal for the doctors at the clinic to perform the procedure. And while the clinic’s lawyers plan to challenge that law in court, the most they can do is buy the clinic a little more time: In 30 days, a trigger ban will take effect in Texas, banning abortions across the state.
Suddenly, the staff had to decide what to tell their patients. Some of the women on the schedule that day had kids, others didn’t. They were White, Black and Hispanic. At least one had driven hundreds of miles to get to Houston, because the lone clinic in her home state of Mississippi was scheduling appointments several weeks out – and she wanted to put her pregnancy behind her.
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