After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order in late March that banned abortion amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than 100 women left the state to access the procedure elsewhere.
That’s according to new data released by Planned Parenthood showing the real-world impact of the state ban, which officials have defended as necessary to preserve medical supplies for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Between March 23 and April 14, the first three weeks of the executive order, Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada saw 129 patients from Texas, a more than seven-fold increase than the month before. This is likely an undercount of Texas women traveling out of state for abortions, as the data only includes patients seen at Planned Parenthood clinics.
The findings, shared with HuffPost on Monday, align with research from the Guttmacher Institute that found earlier this month that under the Texas abortion ban, the average one-way driving distance to a clinic would increase from 12 miles to 243 miles.
Texas is among a handful of states arguing that abortion is a nonessential procedure that must be paused in order to save personal protective equipment for health workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Arkansas, Alabama, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas have all been sued over similar orders halting abortion as part of emergency responses to the pandemic.The abortion bans have been blocked in almost every state where they have been challenged. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas clinics can continue to provide medication abortion while the legal challenge advances, but most surgical abortions are still prohibited.
“We know that when individuals aren’t able to access abortion care in their own state, they will travel — or at least the patients who have the means to travel will do so,” Kristina Tocce, vice president and medical director at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “As a doctor, I can tell you Gov. Abbott’s order is at odds with the best public health guidance during this pandemic. Forcing patients to travel long distances only puts them at a greater risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. … People’s lives are on the line.”
One college student in Texas told HuffPost she was forced to drive to Colorado for an abortion after her appointment in Texas was canceled.
She was scared to travel across state lines during a pandemic, the student said, and she felt as though her home state had put her in unnecessary danger.
“Frankly, I feel like my constitutional rights were violated when I needed them the most,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. “I was forced to drive across the country, to stop at nasty gas stations, to stay in an unfamiliar home, just to get health care.”
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