Outside a Lubbock coffee shop, “Patricia” struggles to calm her friendly, two-year old pit mix, as people walk by. She said the pup is especially antsy after being crated yesterday, while Patricia drove a friend 11 hours, round-trip, to get an abortion in New Mexico.
Texas now has the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Senate Bill 8, which went into effect at the beginning of September, is nearly a complete ban on abortions, prohibiting the procedure after six weeks. That’s before many people even know they’re pregnant. Now, Texans who can afford it are traveling out of state to get abortions.
Patricia recalled that a friend called her on a Monday with “Hey, I’m five weeks and a day.” Her friend was surprised to find out she was pregnant and speculated five weeks and a day was how far along she was in her pregnancy. “And I said, ‘So based on the way you introduce that, we’re taking a girls trip,’” Patricia said.
Her friend was not completely sure how far along she was and with the new state law, she wanted to be safe. Instead of driving five hours east to Dallas, they drove five-and-a-half hours west to Albuquerque.
“I got really concerned,” Patricia said. “You’re like, should we have an overnight bag for if we get pulled over and asked, ‘What are y’all doing.’”
She asked to be called “Patricia” for this story because, while what she did doesn’t violate S.B. 8, there are concerns about how courts might interpret the law in the future.“It feels really illegal man. I feel like a coyote,” she said.
The day after Texas’ new law went into effect, Patricia posted on Facebook, offering rides to anyone who needed to GO over state lines for an abortion. As Patricia and her friend made the long drive to and from New Mexico, a thought kept coming to mind: people like her and her friend won’t be hit the hardest by this law.
“We are women of immense privilege,” she said. “I mean, you’re talking almost $1,000 round trip, just to go into it.” That’s money many in Lubbock cannot spare where the median household income is a little over $52,000.
Robin Gardner exemplifies this.
Around two years ago, she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child. She describes her family as low income. “My husband makes decent money,” she said. “But when you weigh the fact that I barely make more than minimum wage…On paper it looks like we would have a significant income but in all reality like we really do not.” Between daily expenses like food and clothing, along with daycare for three children, Gardner said it’s a struggle.
She didn’t think the family could afford another kid and made an appointment in Dallas to have an abortion. But then she didn’t have the money to get there. “In some situations, it’s easier to just have the baby,” she said. “Even if that’s not necessarily what you wanted to do because financially, you just don’t really have a whole lot of choice.”
Texans who can afford to travel have, and they have been filling up the clinics out of state. “We knew S.B. 8 had passed and we knew it would be bad,” said Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Her network oversees Planned Parenthood clinics in Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico.
She recalled on September 1, the day the law went into effect, “We only had Texas patients in our Albuquerque health center.”
While clinics in these states have always seen Texans, Cowart said, it first spiked when Gov. Greg Abbott stopped abortions during the pandemic, deeming them non-essential. Since then, she said that the wave has not waned. While Texans are not the only ones crossing state lines for their services, they make up a significant percentage. “Pre-COVID the numbers [of out-of-state clients] were in the 10 to 20 a month range.” Cowart said that this year, they’re on track to see 1,200 out-of-state people through 2021. Texans alone, makeup over 40 percent of that projection.
As long as there’s a need for a ride, Patricia said she will keep offering them—no questions asked. “Everybody needs to have people in their corner who are willing to say, ‘Yeah, let’s go,’ …Do I want to drive to Albuquerque ever again in my life? God, no.”
But would she do it again if asked? Absolutely.