Mar 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Texans overwhelmingly traveled out-of-state to get abortions after ban took effect

Picture of people holding signs in support of reproductive rights
Demonstrators rally against anti-abortion and voter suppression laws at the Texas State Capitol on Oct. 2, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

The number of Texas residents who traveled out-of-state to access abortion care increased dramatically after the most restrictive abortion ban in the U.S. went into effect in the state in September.

Driving the news: Newly released data shows that Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas' surrounding states saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.

  • Meanwhile in Texas, the number of clinic abortions performed in the state fell by approximately 60% in the first month after Senate Bill 8 was enacted.

Details: During the first four months of S.B. 8 being in effect, Planned Parenthood clinics saw the following increases:

  • Oklahoma saw a nearly 2,500% increase in Texas patients compared to the previous year.
    • Texans made up over half of the total number abortion patients in the state's PP health centers, compared to less than 10% in 2020.
  • New Mexico saw a 100% increase in patients with Texas zip codes.
  • In Colorado, there was a more than 1,000% increase in abortion patients from Texas, "compared to previous years," according to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Louisiana, another Texas neighboring state, saw an approximately 347% increase in abortion patients from Texas after the ban took effect, according to official government numbers sent to Axios.

  • Between September and December of 2021, there were a total of 984 clinic abortions conducted in the state for Texas residents. That same time in 2020, Louisiana saw 220 Texas abortions patients.

Zoom in: A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Great Plains — which covers Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas — told Axios that health centers in those states saw more than 1,100 Texas patients from September to December 2021, "the overwhelming majority traveling to our Oklahoma health centers."

  • That same time in 2020, PPGP centers saw only 50 patients from Texas.
  • Additionally, between January and February of 2022, PPGP's "Oklahoma clinics continue to see more patients from Texas than are from Oklahoma."

What they're saying: "S.B. 8 has forced Texans to travel extraordinary distances to access constitutionally protected abortion care — and that’s only the people who are able to do so," Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

  • "Those who can’t find the money or get time off work, secure child care, lodging, transportation, and other resources necessary to cross state lines are forced to carry pregnancies against their will or seek abortion outside of the health care system," she added.
  • "This reality is heartbreaking and a glimpse of what’s to come should the Supreme Court restrict the constitutional right to an abortion even further,” she added.

"Planned Parenthood and other supporters of legal abortion have worked overtime to make the case that the Texas heartbeat law is not protecting unborn children, but simply causing Texas women to obtain abortions in other states," said Michael New, a statistician and scholar with the Lozier Institute, which works with the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion rights group.

  • New called Planned Parenthood's data "unpersuasive" and added that S.B. 8 "has enjoyed success protecting preborn children in the Lone Star State."

How it works: The Texas ban effectively prohibits nearly all abortions as soon as embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant.

  • The law does not have any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Between the lines: Texas and most of its neighboring states — specifically Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas — have "trigger laws" in place, which are abortion bans that would kick in right away if the Supreme Court overturns or weakens its precedents protecting reproductive rights.

  • The ban follows a series of restrictive abortion laws passed by conservative state legislatures nationwide in an effort to overturn Roe.

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