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For many Texans, it's a long drive out of state for abortion

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

But now she's fielding calls from increasingly desperate Texas women trying to schedule abortions, some already in their second trimester. She's had to refer some to clinics in Colorado and New Mexico, which allow abortions later in pregnancies than Kansas.

"There's just not enough clinics to support the women who need us, and this law has made it harder," said Tovar, 42, adding that when she had an abortion at age 18, she got an appointment within a week in her hometown of Lawrence, Kansas (that clinic has since closed).

The Texas law increased the average one-way driving distance to an abortion clinic from 17 to 247 miles, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health policy. The average driving distance to one of California's roughly 160 clinics: three miles.

When Meagan arrived at the Wichita clinic, anti-abortion protesters tried to intercept her near the driveway. She ignored them. She's had three previous miscarriages, and with each pregnancy suffered medical problems: hemorrhaging, anemia, chronic fatigue and nausea. She said she decided to have an abortion "for my own health."

She said she got pregnant after having sex with a friend, who has been supportive. He contacted clinics; helped her make the appointment; drove, paid for the hotel room, abortion pills and other travel expenses. Total cost: about $1,000.

Meagan works as a bartender, and said her boss was also sympathetic, giving her sick leave. She earns about $34,000 a year, was in the process of moving, just had to get a new car and pay $300 to take her dog to the vet. She's been homeless before, lived out of her car, and knows there are other women in that position now.

 

"There's people that can't travel, that can't get away, that can't afford the trip," she said. "You're hurting people who are already down."

About 85% of women seen at Texas clinics before the law passed would no longer qualify because they're past the six-week limit, clinic staff said.

Whole Woman's Health, which has four clinics in Texas, has done about half as many weekly abortions since the law took effect: 91 a week compared with 195 a week before the law, a spokeswoman said.

So far, no lawsuits have been filed under the law, said John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, who helped craft it.

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