There were 27 patients scheduled to receive abortions Friday at the Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services in San Antonio.
Some were already waiting outside when the clinic opened at 9am, doing their best to ignore a group of protesters at the parking lot entrance and yell at them through a loudspeaker.
“You don’t have to go in!” the activists begged the women. “They murder babies!”
The long-time owner of the clinic, Dr. Alan Braid was back in his office when his daughter, Andrea Gallegos, the general manager, walked in.
“It’s over. The decision has been made,” she said. “Full revolution.”
Braid cursed. Then he started tearing.
At 77, he’s old enough to remember what abortion was like before the Supreme Court ruled Roe vs. Wade in 1973. He treated women for infections from illegal abortions, including a 16-year-old who arrived with a vagina stuffed with rags he couldn’t save.
Now that the court struck down abortion rights, Braid feared a return to those days.
“Now I have to think about what I’m going to do with these patients,” he said before entering the hallway. “Never thought I would live to see this day.”
His staff was confused.
“So we can’t see anyone?” a nurse asked Gallegos.
“I need to speak to lawyers,” she replied before disappearing into an office.
Texas is one of them 13 states that had ‘trigger laws’ to ban abortion after Roe was ousted His law will not go into effect for a month, but the state attorney general released a statement saying the pre-1973 ban on abortion had been reinstated.
“This is insane,” said one employee in a “My Body My Choice” t-shirt as she sat behind the front desk and wiped away tears.
She glanced at the five women in the waiting room, where the news was not yet known. A TV was playing the Netflix series Stranger Things while the women filled out forms and scrolled their phones.
Suddenly the front door opened and a young woman entered. She could have been mistaken for a clerk unless she was holding a rosary.
“I just wanted to make an announcement that Roe vs. Wade just got knocked over,” she said. “Abortion is illegal”
She had come from the anti-abortion group outside and entered trespassing. An employee ran outside to chase them away, shouting, “Stay off the property!”
Then the employee turned to the stunned women.
“I’m sorry, all of you. We stand still,” she said. “It’s very discouraging. We’re just waiting to see you.”
A woman could not control her anger. She had traveled from Oklahoma and was referred by another clinic, which stopped performing abortions this month after the state imposed new restrictions.
“Some of us drove too far for that,” she said.
Then Braid, who had been consulting with lawyers, entered the waiting room.
“The Supreme Court just overturned Roe vs. Wade. They’ve taken away your right to choose what you do with your body,” he told the women. “There are states it doesn’t affect — New Mexico, Illinois, coastal states. So if you want to stay, the girls can give you information.”
The Oklahoma woman, who declined to give her name, grew increasingly angry.
“So you’re saying we can’t have an abortion today? I just drove eight hours.”
“You can write to Judge Roberts,” Braid said.
“I don’t want to text anyone,” she said. “Why should you wait until today?”
“That’s what everyone thinks,” said another patient who drove about 145 miles from Corpus Christi.
“Unfortunately, my hands are tied,” Braid said, explaining the risks of challenging the law. “I can go to prison for life and be fined $100,000.”
“Do you have anyone online where I can get the pills?” said the Oklahoma woman.
A staffer passed out a list of out-of-state clinics and said they could also try to order abortion drugs by mail from sites like Aid Access.
“I wish they had called me about this last week,” said the angry patient.
“We didn’t know,” the employee explained. “That surprised us. That’s why everyone is so emotional.”
Then the women left one by one.
Andrea, the patient from Corpus Christi, was four weeks pregnant and already had two children aged 3 and 6 years. She said she plans to leave the state.
“If necessary, I will travel,” said the 26-year-old.
Jerrika, 26, another patient who traveled from Oklahoma, scanned the clinic’s handout and focused on an abortion provider in Wichita, about two hours from her home in Tulsa.
“I should have gone there,” she said. “I did not know it.”
She said she has two children, ages 3 and 4, the eldest is autistic, and it’s a lot to deal with. She had already taken time off from nursing school to travel to Texas. Another journey awaited her.
If no clinic could take her, she would have no choice but to keep the baby, she said.
Once the waiting room emptied, women with later appointments started showing up. An employee tried to tell one of them to turn around before their Uber drove away, but it was too late.
“You can’t stay. The law was repealed,” she explained. “That was a few minutes ago.”
The 18-year-old patient was at a loss. She had passed an ultrasound scan at the clinic the day before. She knew she was five weeks and two days pregnant and that there was no fetal heart activity — which made her eligible for an abortion under a Texas law that went into effect last fall.
She had just graduated from high school and was living at home while she planned to go to college. She sat down with a friend who had accompanied her to the clinic.
“I can’t take care of a child,” she said.
She didn’t have a car. Neither does your boyfriend. They hadn’t told her families she was pregnant. Leaving was not an option.
“I’m totally confused,” she said.
Another patient, Jailene, 24, arrived in her pickup truck with her two daughters, ages 6 and 7. She had planned a medical abortion.
She said she didn’t want to take a day trip abroad for an abortion and would likely have the baby.
“It’s really screwed up for us girls,” she said. “We don’t really have any rights. You shouldn’t choose women.”
When another woman arrived at the clinic and heard the news, she collapsed in a chair and began to cry. Then she asked.
“Please, please, I’m in big trouble!” said the woman, a mother of three, the youngest 7 months old, all waiting outside with her husband in a minivan. “I have to travel to India in a few days. We go back.”
“I’m so sorry ma’am — it’s illegal,” one worker said, offering to call other clinics for her but warning, “I can’t guarantee there’s an option right away.”
The woman grabbed her cell phone and called her husband, who appeared in the waiting room moments later. Employees explained the verdict and suggested contacting clinics in New Mexico.
“Is there a place around here that we can try?” he said.
“It’s totally illegal in Texas,” said an employee.
“Also for the fetal anomaly?” he asked.
“It’s draconian,” he said.
As he and his wife left, they passed the anti-abortion protesters. A police cruiser circled the building. A man who appeared to be accompanying a patient confronted the anti-abortion crowd, cursed and recorded a video on his cellphone.
“What are you doing here today?” he said.
“Defending the weak,” said protester Michael Hernandez, 28, who later said he was “thrilled” by the verdict and “we’re going to be on a better path to a better future.”
The protesters said they plan to return in the coming days to monitor whether the clinic is following the law. Some said they hoped the ruling would make Braid retire.
His daughter said they have no immediate plans but are considering moving to Colorado, New Mexico or tribal areas where they would face few restrictions. Braid also owns a clinic in Tulsa that has had to stop offering abortions.
In the afternoon, the mood of the workforce oscillated between frustration and determination.
A worker put her head in her hands. They had notified all 27 patients whose appointments had been canceled on Friday. Now they would have to call the 45 patients with appointments next week.
Among the latest patients to arrive Friday was April Reese, a special education teacher and mother of three. An employee gave her the handout.
“So we have to leave the state?” said Reese, 41. “This is crazy.”
At five weeks and three days pregnant, Reese said she plans to travel.
Reese was about to leave when she realized the employee who had helped her was crying. Some of the other clinic staff behind the front desk too.
“You have done so much good work for the people. So keep that in your heart,” Reese said. “Don’t give up the fight.”
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-06-24/inside-a-texas-abortion-clinic-the-moment-roe-was-overturned Inside a Texas abortion clinic after the Supreme Court overturns Roe