Texans highly motivated to travel to New Mexico for abortions

In most circumstances, it is illegal to perform an abortion in Texas. The solution for many is to travel out of Texas and to a state where abortion is still legal.

By David Martin Davies & Kayla Padilla, Texas Public RadioNovember 3, 2023 9:45 am, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

This report is part of the TPR series Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Evading the Texas Abortion Ban.

It’s 2:45 in the morning, and the Sunset Limited is pulling out of Amtrak’s San Antonio station heading west.

The passenger train is just one of many ways that Texans are traveling to New Mexico where abortion remains legal.

Since September 1, 2021, when the Texas fetal heartbeat law went into effect, many pregnant women in Texas have been forced to flee the state to find abortion care.

David Martin Davies / Texas Public Radio

Sunset Limited train preps to leave San Antonio heading west.

Some women are able to afford an airline flight; many others are not. Driving is an option if there’s access to a dependable car that can cross hundreds of miles of Texas desert. There is the bus, but Amtrak is even cheaper and has the advantage of being more comfortable.

From San Antonio, the train takes about 12 hours to arrive at the El Paso station. From there, it’s a short rideshare trip to the closest abortion clinic in New Mexico.

Women’s Reproductive Clinic is less than a mile across the state line. Inside the waiting room, there’s a large yellow sign that reads “Welcome East Texans to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment.”

Doris came to New Mexico from San Antonio for her abortion. That’s not her actual name. She is asking for anonymity due to fear that Texas could eventually prosecute her for her abortion.

“It’s not like it’s easy. I feel like people act like you get an abortion [that] it’s something that’s easy. It’s not,” she said.

David Martin Davies / Texas Public Radio

Amtrak arrives in El Paso.

She’s 20 years old, blond and wearing a gold necklace with a tiny gold crucifix.

“It’s a lot, and you just have to sit and think about it, especially when you’re on the plane. You’re getting closer and closer and then you’re in the hotel and then you’re waiting and it’s just like… whereas I could be in the comfort of my home and just go to a hospital,” she said.

She decided to end her pregnancy early. She didn’t think she could care for a child. She wasn’t prepared for the responsibility.

“So I feel like people don’t really think about that. Yeah, there’s a bunch of reasons that people need abortions,” she said.

With Doris is her boyfriend.

“There should always be a choice. If you want to keep it, then keep it. You have that option. If you don’t want to, you also have that option as well because it can ruin somebody’s lives and that’s what gets me the most,” he said.

David Martin Davies / Texas Public Radio

Women's Reproductive Clinic in New Mexico less than a mile from the Texas state line.

The boyfriend’s mother is also here. She is paying for the trip and the treatment. She says these expenses are a financial burden.

“When you have to go to another state to get the kind of care that we’re getting today, there’s an emotional aspect to it, a mental aspect and a financial aspect to this that is challenging. And not everybody has the ability to do what we’re doing today,” she said.

“Travel to another state comes with really substantial costs,” said Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that supports reproductive rights.

“It comes with financial costs, both the travel itself and the cost of abortion care. It also comes with logistical costs, obtaining childcare, getting time off work, obtaining transportation. And those costs can be really difficult for many people to manage,” said Zimet.

He adds, abortions in New Mexico have increased 220 percent since 2020, mainly from Texans. He says this means people are highly motivated to make the journey. And according to the data since the end of Roe v. Wade the number of Texans having abortions hasn’t fallen. Instead, they are finding ways to travel to abortion-legal states.

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