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Women are traveling to New Mexico for abortions

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 29, 2022

It takes more than 12 hours to drive across Texas, a large state where abortion is now unavailable.  

T'anna Smith is a Texas resident who traveled to New Mexico by plane. 

"I came from Dallas," Smith said. "My homegirl had been on like this program to help me. So they paid for my flights. They paid for my hotel and they paid for the rental car."

She flew all the way to El Paso, then crossed the state line into New Mexico to get abortion medication.

"It's like, how can you make that decision for me? How can you make these decisions that's going to affect my life in the long run," Smith said.

Many more women travel by car.  

"I drove 10 hours," said Pilar Zavala, another Texas resident who went to New Mexico for abortion services.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned abortion rights case Roe v. Wade, New Mexico is now the only state bordering Texas where abortion is still legal.

"I had to take the whole weekend off. And I mean, it would have been easier to go to Louisiana because they were three hours away. But they wanted you to go to one appointment just to talk to a counselor, and then another appointment to have an ultrasound, and then another appointment. One of my main jobs is Monday through Friday, like they were not trying to let me off, especially for that," she said. 

Anti-abortion activists are celebrating a decision they say will save human lives. But in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, at doctor Franz Theard’s Womens Health Clinic, the phones are ringing off the hook for abortion services. 

"So we got as little as 100 patients a month, to 269 patients a month. And I think the past two months have been over 200. So I suspect it's going to trend that way," Theard said. 

Out-of-towners from the Lone Star State may bring a Texas-sized demand curve for abortion care services, that’s because the population of Texas is more than 29 million people, and the population of New Mexico is around 2 million.

"So there are 55,000 abortion patients in Texas last year and about 11,000 in Colorado, right. And fewer than that in New Mexico. So that's potentially a five times increase in the number of patients traveling from out of state, which is going to have ripple effects across our entire state health care infrastructure. Not only for abortion providers, but for primary care providers," said Jack Teter, vice president of governmental affairs at Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains.  

Abortion rights activists say Texas already had strict laws on the books, and adding a total ban will overwhelmingly affect Black and brown women – and undocumented migrants.  

“It clashes with this sort of cultural conservatism around abortion. But the reality is, is folks are majority working class, and having a child is incredibly expensive. And a lot of folks have different reasons for why they need to seek abortion care, you know, which is a medical procedure. And the government has no business sticking their nose in," said Alexis Bay, a board director at Frontera Fund.

Mostly Texans now fill Theard’s waiting room waiting for a consultation, and prescription for abortion medications Misoprostol and Mifepristone. 

"It's an undue burden, and they shouldn't have to be. Not in 2022. But we're going back," Bay said. 

Theard was early on in his medical training when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. 

"So it took 50 years for the pendulum to swing the other way. And I hope that it doesn't take 50 years for us to regain reproductive rights," she said.  

At the tail end of his career, a constitutional right for women is gone.

"I think some of this is, you got to recognize that the pro-life people have been doing it very gradually over the years. I think the pro-choice people have become were complacent. We just took it for granted that it was going to be forever," Bay said. 

Theard says he will help people access abortion care as long as he can. 

"It is a sad time for the country, and we're going backward in everything from that to voting rights to everything. What's coming to this country? I don't know," Bay said. 

Texas women will likely keep crossing a state line to get abortion care. 

"And I've seen a lot of females, a lot of ladies in here, but it's like you never know their story. You never know what they're going through. And so, I just, I support all women. I feel like if they feel like this, that's what they need to do with what they need to do. I'd rather somebody not have the baby, then just have it and just not care for it," Smith said.

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