NEWS

Facing Restrictions, Texas Abortion Clinic Turns Patients Away

Pro-choice protest in Texas.

Jordan Vonderhaar / Stringer / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A new law passed in Texas banned abortions after six weeks.
  • Now, every abortion clinic in Texas will have to reject people seeking an abortion after this time period.
  • Whole Woman’s Health, an independent abortion provider in Texas, has already experienced the law's impact. 

On September 1, 2021, one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country went into effect, called S.B. 8, in Texas. Since the inception of the law, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, abortion clinics have had to turn away people seeking an abortion after six weeks. 

Whole Woman’s Health, an independent abortion provider with offices in Fort Worth, Austin, McAllen, North Texas, and other states say that they have been anticipating and preparing for this blow. 

“When the law was going through the legislative session earlier in the spring, we knew about it," Blair Cushing, DO, a physician at Whole Woman’s Health, tells Verywell. "It was lingering over the staff and physicians for those couples months of the summer of whether or not this was really going to come into play." 

This isn’t the clinic's first time dealing with restrictive abortion laws in the state. 

A History of Restrictions

Texas has a history of passing restrictive abortion laws.

Cushing says that in the past, Whole Woman’s Health has brought lawsuits that have yielded injunctions. Ultimately, these lawsuits allowed the clinic to continue its operations. 

In 2013, Texas legislators passed H.B. 2—requiring doctors who provided abortion services to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals no further than 30 miles away from the clinic. The law also mandated that every healthcare facility offering abortion care meet specific building specifications. The requirements would have left the 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border without a single clinic.

In 2016, a lawsuit was filed on April 2, 2014, by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of five Texas abortion clinics, three physicians, and their patients. The case became known as the landmark case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. 

On June 27, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the two abortion restrictions imposed by Texas were unconstitutional because they would shut down most clinics in the state and cause an undue burden to safe and legal abortion. This standard states that legislatures cannot make laws that are too burdensome or restrictive of an individual’s fundamental rights.

This decision granted a win to Whole Woman’s Health and four other clinics.

S.B. 8's Impact

Now, history repeats itself.

Because of S.B. 8, the majority of patients that Whole Woman’s Health serves are no longer able to seek abortion care not only at Whole Woman’s Health but at any other abortion clinic in the state of Texas, according to Cushing.

“No clinic in the state of Texas is going to be able to help you,” Cushing explains. “So your only option for seeking an abortion [after six weeks] at this point would be to attempt to obtain services out of state.” 

Research shows that restrictions on medical abortion lead to clinic closures. For example, in 2013, after Texas passed legislation banning medical abortion after 20 weeks, abortion clinics closed. In May 2013, 41 facilities were providing abortion. This number dwindled to 22 facilities by November that year.

Coupled with not being able to provide abortion services, Cushing says that the clinic is also excluded from participating in state-funded programs that would increase access to contraception and family planning services, services that prevent and delay pregnancy. Whole Woman's Health also provides gynecological care services.

“So all of these other restrictions that come into play, even prior to S.B. 8, are making it so much harder,” Cushing says. 

What This Means For You

It is still legal in the state of Texas to get an abortion before six weeks of pregnancy. To learn more about accessing abortion services, visit Needabortion.org or Planned Parenthood. To locate financial help, including help with transportation, Needabortion.org lists organizations providing financial aid. 

Reproductive Health Is at Risk

Restrictive abortions bans, like S.B. 8, threaten people's reproductive health.

“We’re hearing rather horrifying stories, stories of people who find themselves with ectopic pregnancy or who have discovered they have conditions that make pregnancy very dangerous to their health, who can’t find providers who will aid them because of the existence of this law,” Elizabeth Sepper, JD, LLM, professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, tells Verywell. 

For example, people with ectopic pregnancies, a pregnancy where the fetus develops outside of the uterus, can experience internal bleeding. If not treated right away, it can lead to death. People begin to develop symptoms between four and 12 weeks of pregnancy. Ruptured ectopic pregnancy accounts for 2.7% of pregnancy-related deaths.

In Texas, it is estimated that there are 6,037,295 women of reproductive age.

“So the ban on abortion here has tremendous impact,” Sepper says. “And the cost fall with the greatest weight on women who are already disadvantaged because of the fact that they live in rural areas, their immigration status, poverty status, or the color of their skin.” Wealthy White women will still be able to access abortion, she adds.

Since the passing of S.B. 8, Cushing says that the only game plan for the clinic is to comply. 

“So as difficult and restrictive as that is, we’re having to turn away many women and tell them that, unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to perform that abortion,” Cushing says.

Was this page helpful?
6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Center for Reproductive Rights. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

  2. Center for Reproductive Rights. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

  3. Grossman D, Baum S, Fuentes L, et al. Change in abortion services after implementation of a restrictive law in Texas. Contraception. 2014;90(5):496-501. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2014.07.006

  4. The National Health Services. Ectopic Pregnancy. Updated November 27, 2018. 

  5. Hendriks E, Rosenberg R, Prine L. Ectopic Pregnancy: Diagnosis and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2020;101(10):599-606.

  6. March of Dimes. Birth Rate Texas.