When the Tory majority in the High Court struck down Roe v. Wade on Friday, the Hope Medical Center for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, was packed with patients seeking care.
Some were already in the centre’s waiting rooms. Hundreds more were planned for the next two weeks.
But with Roe now reversed, the dozens of procedures and consultations scheduled for the day had to be canceled on the spot. Louisiana is one of 13 states with trigger laws that ban abortion immediately or in the near future after Roe’s fall.
At Hope Medical Center, one of three statewide abortion providers, staff and patients faced a new reality.
“Some patients are really in shock. Some of our employees cry on the phone with patients. We have a patient who is so desperate she is just sobbing,” said Kathaleen Pittman, clinical administrator at the Shreveport clinic. “It’s difficult. It’s very difficult.”
Pittman said that to date, the clinic has not closed or relinquished its licenses.
“We are certainly there for women who still need us to call and talk, or those who have been in our care and may have follow-up needs. We are certainly not going to abandon them. But I tell you, the air is heavy with disbelief and sorrow today.
The clinic had already been overwhelmed for months after Texas enacted the nation’s toughest abortion law last fall, sending hundreds of patients to Louisiana for treatment. For now, the clinic is handling a steady stream of calls as staff provide so much information about their options and the availability of other clinics — out of state — that will not be affected by this decision. Louisiana patients wishing to have their pregnancies surgically terminated will have to travel hundreds of miles to Kansas, North Carolina or Illinois, where abortion remains legal, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Pittman said the decision wasn’t just about getting rid of abortion, it was about getting rid of safe access.
“It will make their situation worse, especially for women who cannot get the care they need and deserve and should be entitled to. Some are going to be forced to pursue a pregnancy that they can’t afford,” Pittman said.
She added that there will likely be an increase in the number of women attempting to self-manage their abortions, an increase in emergency room visits, and an increase in pregnancy-related adverse events and maternal mortality.
Louisiana’s maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the nation, according to 2018 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to state figures, the rate is about four times higher for black mothers than for white mothers. The state also has the fifth highest infant mortality rate in the United States.
David Schmit, spokesperson for Lift Louisiana, a women’s and children’s advocacy group, said the decision would have “potentially devastating effects” on certain groups of people.
“Let’s be clear, this decision will not prevent privileged, predominantly white people from accessing abortion services. Instead, it allows the state to continue to oppress black, indigenous and other people of color, low-income people, youth, people living in rural areas and other marginalized communities d ‘access abortion care,’” Schmit said in an email. “This oppression is rooted in anti-black racism, white supremacy, patriarchy and misogyny.”
Friday’s decision triggered a law passed by the state legislature in 2006 that imposes an immediate ban on all abortions in Louisiana, except in cases where childbirth would threaten the life of the mother. There is also no exception for rape or incest.
Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is quick to support strong anti-abortion laws, called for resources to be provided to women affected by the High Court ruling.
“I am and always have been staunchly pro-life and anti-abortionist,” Edwards said in a statement shortly after the ruling was released. “Being pro-life means more than just being against abortion. This means providing the necessary resources and implementing policies that offer real options and not just empty words to children, women and families.
Edwards said it was essential that Louisiana fund services to support women, children and families throughout their lives.
At least two rallies were planned in New Orleans on Friday night as abortion advocates react to the fallout. Many fear the decision will disproportionately affect women of color and marginalized communities.
New Orleans musician and activist Arsène DeLay believes lives are in danger. A new generation of activism is needed, she said.
“All we have is each other, and it will take full community involvement to prevent the desperation of not having access to reproductive health care from causing self-inflicted harm, and a death rate even higher among young girls, women and the LGBTQ community,” she says.
DeLay said she hopes people will take this time to donate to local abortion funds, volunteer as clinic escorts and, most importantly, support people and organizations who are already doing work.
“There is no need to try to reinvent the wheel,” she added.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists in the state celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutional abortion protections that had been in place for nearly 50 years. Democratic State Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans lamented the news that state shutdowns were already in effect in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“They are closed. If they provide abortion care, they go to jail, are arrested or heavily fined.
In this legislative session, lawmakers passed even stricter abortion laws that increase penalties but exempt pregnant women from persecution. Medical abortions, which now account for half of all abortions, according to the Guttemacher Institute, are illegal in Louisiana.
While Pittman is angry with conservative Supreme Court justices, she blames it on state lawmakers.
“As far as what we are facing in Louisiana, I have never been more ashamed of my condition than I am today,” she said shortly after the ruling. “If we had people in our state legislature who were in tune with what our citizens want and if they were in tune with the needs of their citizens, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Roe wouldn’t matter.
Instead, state lawmakers “showed blatant disregard for their citizens, especially people of color and marginalized communities,” she added.
Members of Louisiana Right to Life applauded the High Court’s decision and told a press conference that it had compiled an extensive list of resources for pregnant and parenting mothers at several parenting centers. However, critics say anti-abortion groups like Louisiana Right to Life rarely support bills aimed at helping women and families, including an increase in Louisiana’s minimum wage, which would significantly improve the economic situation of patients. seeking treatment.
Still, at a Friday press conference, Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said his group was “ready to help women into a post-Roe abortion-free future.”
“Today is a great day. A celebration where we can now protect the rights of unborn children. We can protect their lives under the law,” Clapper said. not finished.With an abundance of public and private resources, Louisiana is ready to support women and children before and after birth.
In Shreveport, Pittman said his clinic is considering other legal options, but for now it’s focused on women who are confused by the news and staff who have seen their work come to an abrupt halt.
“Even though we anticipated bad news, it was actually even worse than I anticipated. It’s devastating. It really is. We had to go into comfort mode with some of the patients,” Pittman said.
She said staff at the center were trying to reach their patients to make sure they got the news – and their scheduled appointments had now been cancelled.
“It’s very difficult though because we have patients who are really scared of what’s going to happen now.”