Women who got abortions in the final hours before Texas issued a 6-week ban said they were in ‘a race against time’

Protesters hold signs at an abortion rally at the Texas State Capitol in 2019.
Protesters against abortion restrictions gathered at the Texas State Capitol on May 21, 2019. Eric Gay/AP
  • People scrambled to book abortions in Texas days before a new law took effect.
  • The law, SB 8, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – around six weeks into pregnancy.
  • Texans who were already pregnant and seeking abortions had to race against the clock to get help.
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Patients desperate for abortions scrambled to book appointments this week before Texas’ new abortion ban took effect.

The law known as SB 8 prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, with no exceptions for rape or incest. However, most people do not yet know they’re pregnant around that six-week mark, so the law effectively bans most abortions unless there’s a medical emergency.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 8 on May 19, and it went into effect September 1. As that date approached, Texans who were already pregnant and seeking abortions had a minute window to get them done.

“It was a race against time for me,” Hope Hanzlik, 21, told reporter Caroline Kitchener for The Lily.

Hanzlik said she called to schedule an abortion at Houston Women’s Clinic on August 23, knowing that SB 8 could take effect soon. She booked an appointment for the following Monday and drove three hours to the clinic with a friend.

When she finally got to the clinic, less than 48 hours before the ban was implemented, Hanzlik felt “relieved,” she told The Lily. “I’m not ready to have a child,” she said.

Other women shared similar experiences

Another woman, a 21-year-old sex worker and employee at a Texas donut shop, got an abortion on Tuesday, in the final hours of Texas having access to abortion for up to about 20 weeks.

The woman, who used the pseudonym “Jen” because she feared reprisal from anti-abortion activists, told Jezebel she was “sick with worry” that she would have to continue an unwanted pregnancy due to SB 8.

Jen said she learned she was eight weeks pregnant the week before the ban took effect.

“Every since I was a teenager – and then especially when I started doing sex work- I knew that if I got pregnant I would get an abortion,” Jen told Jezebel reporter Marie Solis.

“I know Texas is very conservative, and I figured there might be a lot of judgment and it might be a little hard, but I never seriously considered it that I wouldn’t be able to get an abortion at all.”

Clinics were packed the day before the ban

Jen told Jezebel she was turned away from nearly every abortion clinic in her area due to high demand before she finally snagged an appointment at Houston Women’s Clinic. Texas law requires people seeking abortions to have a consultation, then wait 24 hours before the actual procedure, so she went to the clinic on Monday and Tuesday before the ban took effect.

The clinic was packed with at least 30 people at a time when Jen went, with more people waiting outside and in their cars. She said some had to wait for a few hours before they could come in because the clinic was so overbooked.

If she hadn’t gotten an appointment in time, Jen said she would have had to miss “five or six days” of work to travel out of state for an abortion. Between the time off and the cost of the procedure, she worried she would “have to have the baby” because she couldn’t afford the alternative.

After the abortion, Jen told Jezebel she was happy she got it done, but sad for other women in Texas who were not so lucky.

“I feel a little woozy from the sedative still, but other than that I feel very fine and very happy,” Jen said. “I feel so relieved-this is a big weight off my shoulders.”