ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Since the passage of Senate Bill 8, which prohibits abortion once a heartbeat is detected, many Texans who need abortions have left home for care. It's lead to a surge in patients at clinics in surrounding states
Planned Parenthood of South Texas would normally be filled with patients receiving different types of care for abortion. Jeffrey Hons, the president and CEO, says they had no choice but to shut down those procedures.
“It’s eerily quiet here now and that’s been the case here for the month of September," Hons said. “And then when the Supreme Court turned its back on not only the women of Texas, but the legal framework of the United States of America, then things went eerily quiet here when people realized finding abortion in Texas had essentially become nearly impossible and the flurry of activity has now moved across state lines where people are desperately trying to find the care very very far away that they should be able to find right here.”
Hons says it feels wrong for them to not be offering the services their patients desperately need.
“And for those people finding abortion care that is legal, safe and offered without judgement and without stigma, it’s essential. It’s a human dignity, it’s a human right. And so, it is very painful right now, to be experiencing the emotion and physic toll that Senate Bill 8 is creating for staff who want to help people but can’t," Hons said.
This reality has put some people in a tough spot; their options are slim.
“There is so much to be worried about right now. I mean when you talk to abortion providers in neighboring states, whether that be Louisiana, New Mexico Oklahoma, they are seeing an uptick in the number of patients who are reporting Texas zip codes as their home address," Hons said.
The New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproduction Choice is seeing that firsthand.
Brittany Defeo, the program manager, shows us some context. She says in September 2019, they performed 20 abortions, in September of 2020 that number dropped to 15, and this year, it’s up to 50 people, 80% of whom are Texans.
“We were not really seeing new Mexico patients, it’s a very small amount of what we serve. We do anyone. Anywhere you come from, we will support you. Clearly Texas is the majority, it always has been, now it’s overwhelming, it is all Texas people," Defeo said.
To look at it another way, in 2020 they provided abortions to 216 people and they have already surpassed that this year with three months to go.
“It’s not how it used to be. It’s like they scatter in, they are just showing up. A lot of them are flying in in the morning. I’m getting them at the airport, taking them straight to an appointment, picking them up, getting food, they are flying back," Defeo said.
She says their phones have not stopped ringing; people are terrified to submit an application while still in Texas and are unsure of the boundaries around Senate Bill 8.
“So, we have the people who are afraid to travel, the people who are afraid to travel in a pandemic, and the people who are afraid that they are going to go to jail if they come out here to access care," Defeo said.
On top of all of that, their resources are slim.
“So, what we’re seeing is really low income, marginalized communities, the people that need the help the most," Defeo said. “These are people that have nothing, that don’t have access to birth control, to health care, to food, to safety.”
That’s why this organization in New Mexico is making sure the people of Texas are reminded that they do have options.
“Just like confirming that community and trying to break that shame and stigma that’s even heavier because of this law," Defeo said.