- A women’s health clinic in Fort Worth stayed open until midnight on the eve of Texas’ new abortion ban.
- The clinic provided between 75 and 80 abortions that day.
- The last abortion finished at 11:56 PM, and they’ve had to turn away most patients since.
As the clock approached midnight on Tuesday, August 31, the staff at Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth, Texas, worried they weren’t going to see all of their patients in time.
Normally, the clinic closes at 5 PM and anyone left over would come back another day. But SB 8, a new Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, meant that Tuesday was the final day anyone further along could get a legal abortion in Texas.
It was the only clinic to stay open until the minute before SB 8 took effect, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president, founder, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, told Insider.
“I think people were feeling desperate because they knew the ability to make that decision would be blocked just 24 hours later,” Hagstrom Miller said.
Indeed, since Wednesday, they have been forced to turn most new patients away because they have been too far along in their pregnancies to get a legal abortion, Hagstrom Miller said. Most people do not know they’re pregnant before the six-week mark.
Protesters sat in the parking lot through the night with flood lights
Most people were in the waiting room for hours before getting seen, and the clinic ended up providing between 75 and 80 abortions that day.
“We had staff and physicians who were in tears at the thought of not being able to see everybody who was there in time,” Hagstrom Miller said. “They called me and said, ‘We don’t want to turn anybody away. What if we don’t finish by midnight?'”
They had no choice but to stop before midnight, because any private citizen could call the police or a tip line to report an illegal abortion — for a reward of at least $10,000.
Hagstrom Miller said the parking lot was full of protestors all day, and when it got dark, they lit up the parking lot with flood lights. “They were surveilling,” she said.
The clinic was able to see all the patients that came that day, but it was a close call. The last visit finished at 11:56 PM, according to Hagstrom Miller.
Some women were too far along to get help
Although the clinic was able to provide abortions to everyone who was eligible on August 31, they had to turn some people away due to a caveat in Texas law.
Texas is one of 13 states that require two separate, in-person visits to obtain an abortion. Many states mandate some form of counseling before an abortion is performed, but Texas law says that counseling must be provided in person at least 24 hours before the procedure.
Hagstrom Miller said the clinic was forced to deny some patients who came for their counseling visits on the 31st because ultrasounds showed they were over six weeks into their pregnancies. If they came back the next day, they wouldn’t be eligible for abortions under the new law.
The clinic will remain open to provide any abortions they can and offer resources, but there’s only so much they can do.
“It’s awful to be put in a position of carrying out the state’s mandate as a clinic staff person,” Hagstrom Miller said. “They’re there because they are compassionate and they care about providing abortion services, and then to be put in a position to deny somebody care — it’s just awful.”