Protesters hold up signs at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a new bill outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
TOPEKA — The number of telephone calls from out-of-state women seeking abortion services surged at the Trust Women clinic in Wichita following implementation of a Texas law prohibiting the procedure in most instances after six weeks of pregnancy.
Trust Women clinics in Wichita and Oklahoma City anticipate their clientele to include more Texas women because the statute could thwart an estimated 85% of abortions in that southern state.
“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of patients calling to schedule appointments,” said Wichita clinic director Ashley Brink. “They can thank or blame Texas for that.”
Brink said Trust Women clinics brought in supplemental medications and other supplies ahead of the surge. The Wichita facility is planning clinic renovations to make more efficient use of space, she said.
Handwriting was on the wall after the number of Kansas abortions involving Texas women went from 25 in 2019 to 289 in 2020, primarily because COVID-19 closed abortion clinics in southern states but not Kansas.
Texas lawmakers sought to ban abortions in that state when fetal cardiac activity could be detected, which occurs as early as six weeks. The state declined to include an exemption for rape or incest. The law contained a clause allowing later abortions to save the life of a pregnant woman.
The anti-abortion organization Kansans For Life marked implementation Wednesday of the Texas law by escalating criticism of Trust Women and renewing an appeal for passage in August 2022 of a state constitutional amendment on abortion. It would reverse a Kansas Supreme Court decision in 2019 that found the right to bodily autonomy embedded in the Kansas Constitution guaranteed access to abortion.
Danielle Underwood, KFL spokeswoman, said “unabashed marketing to out-of-staters underscores the critical importance” of the pending constitutional amendment in Kansas.
“We must be clear that we do not consent to continuing on this path to becoming a regional destination for abortion,” Underwood said. “When an abortion industry franchise seeks to capitalize on what it clearly views as a growth opportunity for its abortion business, we know we have a problem.”
Michelle Schroeder, chief of policy and communications for Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson of Wichita, said the Value Them Both amendment was critical to preserving decades of abortion law in Kansas. The amendment was placed on statewide ballots following passage by the necessary two-thirds majorities of the state House and Senate. The measure requires a simple majority of voters participating in balloting next year.
“It’s sad there are some that would promote abortion as if it were a tourist attraction, and it certainly demonstrates the need for common sense regulation,” Schroeder said.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported a 9.1% increase in abortions during 2020 in Kansas. It was the largest jump in decades and reflected a 16% escalation of abortions involving out-of-state women.
President Joe Biden said the Texas law “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.” He pointed to a provision in Senate Bill 8 that enabled private citizens to bring lawsuits against doctors, office employees and anyone believed to have helped someone get an illegal abortion. The law creates a significant hurdle for communities of color and people with low incomes, the president said.
Brink, clinical director at Trust Women in Wichita, said the Texas law threatened to damage transportation and child care programs relied upon by women seeking an abortion. States shouldn’t adopt statutes placing an undue burden on women seeking health care, she said.
“The truth is, it’s disgusting,” Brink said. “It’s a violation of all things we stand for. It’s unconstitutional.”
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