AUSTIN (KXAN) — Many abortion clinics in Texas and in other states say they’re already fielding a flurry of phone calls after Senate Bill 8 went into effect Wednesday, banning abortions in Texas once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Texans can also now sue doctors or assistants who help with an unlawful abortion.
Planned Parenthood South Texas says it saw twice the usual number of patients over the last few days as Texans tried to get last-minute care.
“What patients are finding out as they call and seek appointments, is that in many cases we’re having to tell them just up front that we are not going to be able to assist them,” said Sarah Wheat, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.
Wheat said they are still providing abortions for women up to six weeks of pregnancy but estimates they now cannot serve about 85% of patients who may be seeking an abortion in Texas.
“The only thing they can do is leave the state, if they’re trying to have an appointment within a health care setting,” she said.
That’s exactly what some women are already trying to do. Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma says it typically gets three to five calls from Texans per day. In the last two days, they’ve gotten 50-55 calls from Texans.
“I’ve already asked a few of our physicians, ‘will you come on for third day, when you come to see us? Will you sign up for an additional shift, so that we can see more of these Texas patients?’” said Rebecca Tong, Trust Women clinic’s acting co-executive director.
She says for the first time ever, they are capping patients per day.
“Not everyone who needs an abortion at this time is going to be seen,” she said.
“We want to emphasize, however, that people who need abortion care should continue to look to Texas funds and neighboring clinics for help. If we are unable to see anyone due to volume, we will absolutely help direct them to a clinic with availability,” added another spokesperson.
Texas Right to Life says it is aware of women crossing state lines.
“I know women will go to other states to get abortions,” said senior legislative associate Rebecca Parma. “I wouldn’t want that for them, because I think there’s a better answer than abortion.”
While the new law does not allocate funding to help women through their pregnancies, Parma points out legislators approved $100 million in the next budget for the Alternatives to Abortion program.
“It can be as straightforward as diapers or formula, but it can also be parenting skills classes or job skills training,” Parma explained.
As the Texas Tribune has reported, some democrats have criticized the expanding program, calling for more transparency on what it does and how effective it is.