Surgical technician Carissa and ICU staff member Elise, bring a patient from Texas to the recovery room after she had an abortion at the Trust Women’s clinic in Oklahoma City, U.S., December 6, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
Tulsa Women’s Clinic, one of only four abortion providers in Oklahoma, may have to close completely as soon as this summer if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade case as scheduled later in the year. now.
A draft opinion leaked from the high court last week suggests that a conservative majority is poised to overturn. landmark ruling of 1973 that abortion is legal nationwide. If the court approves the draft, it will cause a split between countries where abortion is still legal and those that ban it, leaving millions of women with little or no access to it. abortion.
Oklahoma is one of 26 states planning to ban abortion if Roe is exposed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for abortion rights.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation in April that make abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of $100,000. The law makes an exception for medical emergencies where the mother’s life is in danger but does not apply to cases of rape or incest. The abortion ban took effect in August, after the Supreme Court’s current term ends and a ruling on Roe has presumably been delivered.
“It doesn’t mean no abortion, so it means no clinic,” says Andrea Gallegos, executive manager of Tulsa Women’s Clinic. “We will not be able to continue to provide the service we provide,” Gallegos said.
Dr Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said overturning the Roe regime would further increase inequality in the US healthcare system, primarily punishing lower-income women, including in minority communities, who already struggle to access quality health care. Those who can afford to live in states where abortion faces an outright ban will be able to travel to other states where the procedure is still legal, Benjamin said.
“The well-off women will not be a significant barrier,” he said. Women with lower incomes will have.
Some women who needed abortions were forced to cross state lines even while Roe was in place. When Texas passes a Last year’s law banned most abortions, patients began fleeing to neighboring Oklahoma clinics for care. Tulsa Women’s Clinic saw its patient count nearly triple that of its sister facility in San Antonio, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, which began referring patients there, according to Gallegos .
“We have become a safe haven for Texas patients who are fleeing the state in search of care,” Gallegos said.
Oklahoma, however, is no longer a safe haven. Governor signed a law last week implement the same restrictions as Texas. Abortion is now illegal after a heartbeat detected in an embryo at ultrasound, occurs as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law, known as the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It only allows abortions during a medical emergency, like if the mother’s life is at risk.
“Many women have just found out they are pregnant, so the window of access to abortion has narrowed significantly,” says Gallegos.
The law prohibits most abortions in Oklahoma. In 2019, 56.4% of abortions in the state were performed after the sixth week of pregnancy, when the heart rate was found to be normal, while 43.6% were performed on or before the sixth week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The law allows individuals to sue virtually anyone who performs or “assists and abets” an abortion within six years of the procedure. The defendant will face $10,000 in damages for each abortion performed. Patients who want an abortion cannot be sued.
“It doesn’t make sense for Texans to travel to Oklahoma now,” says Gallegos. Gallegos said that since the law was passed, the Tulsa Women’s Clinic has been unable to perform abortions on about half of the patients seeking the procedure because they did not arrive before heart activity was detected in the embryo.
Some abandoned women in Oklahoma may cross state lines to get abortions at nearby clinics. Arkansas and Kansas, where the law is not so restrictive. However, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, Arkansas also plans to outlaw abortion. That would leave just four clinics in Kansas, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion rights in 2019, to serve millions of people in the area.
According to Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, a spokesman for Trust Women, which has clinics in Wichita, Kansas and Oklahoma City, in that scenario, waiting times at the Kansas clinics would increase significantly due to the volume of patients. from neighboring states becomes more limited. provide abortion pills.
“The clinic system in this area is not strong enough to bear the loss of so many clinics,” says Gingrich-Gaylord.
Although the Food and Drug Administration now allows women to receive abortion pills in the mail, Oklahoma also prohibits doctors from using telemedicine appointments to prescribe medications and monitor patients taking them. Pill, mifepristone, approved for use until 10 weeks of pregnancy. In 2019, about 54% of early abortions were medical abortions with drugs, According to CDC.
In a summary filed with the Supreme Court last year, dozens of the nation’s top medical corporations argued that abortion is a Safe and essential ingredient of health care. They include the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and many others.
Benjamin with the public health group said overturning Roe poses “a huge risk to women’s health.”
“When the procedure is not performed under proper guidance in a sterile and appropriate environment, there is a risk of infection and death,” he said. “There is a risk of infertility. There is a risk of bleeding to death.”
Obstetricians and gynecologists worry that proper medical training in how to perform a safe abortion could plummet if Roe were to flip. The percentage of residents trained in abortion could drop from 92% in 2020 to 56% if the state’s abortion ban goes into effect, according to a study published last week in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. and Gynecology, a peer-reviewed medical journal. Training is not only important for abortion care, but also for other medical skills such as miscarriage management, the authors say.
Dr. Jen Villavicencio, of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called the Supreme Court’s draft ruling an unprecedented attack on women’s health care that would create fear, confusion, and fear. interfere with the general patient’s access to antenatal care. Villavicencio said the team is working to create an expanded network of doctors to help patients access care wherever they live.
“It’s important for us to expand access in those states where it’s not restricted to help people traveling from there,” she told CNBC in an emailed statement.
In the Northeast, Governor Kathy Hochul swore that New York, which legalized abortion three years before Roe sued Wade, would provide a safe harbor for anyone in need.
“This is a basic right that has been hacked,” Hochul said on Thursday. “Come to New York. This is the birthplace of the women’s rights movement.”