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Tensions Rise Over Future of Abortion Rights in US

Tensions Rise Over Future of Abortion Rights in US
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The future of abortion rights is in flux in the U.S. as the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the issue in June. Since September, Texas has banned abortions after six weeks.

Amy, a spoken-word poet, recently had an abortion. And it was no easy task. The divorced mother of a 3-year-old said she barely had time to think once she realized she was pregnant — because she is in Texas.

"If I would have had a little bit more time, lowered my blood pressure a little bit — maybe I would have made a different decision. We'll never know," she said.

In September, the state enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S. Amy, who declined to give her last name, knew she had just days to make her decision, find a place to get an abortion, and then go through with it.

"I don't even think I had gotten the results from the pregnancy test, and I was already googling where to get an abortion in Texas, just so that I could have the option," she said.

Amy's experience in Texas may soon become reality for more women in the U.S.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on an abortion case in June that could spur a wave of abortion rights restrictions throughout the nation.

Worried abortion rights advocates point to life in Texas under the new law, where abortion is illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks of being pregnant for most women.

The law also carries the ability to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after six weeks.

The reality for most women is the deadline is even shorter. When Amy missed her period, two weeks after having sex, she was considered to be four-and-a-half to five weeks pregnant, since pregnancy is calculated from the first day of a woman's last period. Amy had less than a week, but after multiple phone calls, she was able to get into a clinic.

"I didn't even have time to assess my own thoughts, I felt the clock ticking," she said.

For anti-abortion activists, this time constraint is a big step in the right direction.

"Our goal is to make a society such that no woman would even consider having an abortion because she feels there are no alternatives. We do have vast alternatives," said Joe Pojman, founder of Texas Alliance for Life.

Instead of seeking an abortion, Pojman wants pregnant women to visit Texas' nearly 200 crisis pregnancy centers, where he says they can find support.

Brittany Green-Benningfield, who heads the Pflugerville Pregnancy Resource Center, said such groups offer a variety of resources for pregnant women.

"So this is our baby boutique for our moms," she said while offering a tour of the center. "This is where, when they come and take lessons with us, they get an opportunity to shop. Through classes, they earn points, and then they are able to take what they need. We have a licensed sonographer, and she provides ultrasounds for any of our clients that come in. We are giving our moms a first glimpse to see their baby."

The centers also help women make doctor's appointments and offer things like canned goods until the child is 2-and-a-half to 3 years old. Pojman said it's all a big step in the right direction, but that much more work is needed.

"While the number of abortions has substantially decreased and women are seeking more agencies that provide alternatives to abortions, there are still tens of thousands of abortions in Texas going on," he said.

In some ways, Amy was a best-case scenario for someone seeking an abortion in Texas. She knew the law, she knew she had to move quickly, and she had resources to get an abortion and possibly travel out of state, if necessary. That's not the case for poorer women who are being harmed most by the law, say abortion rights advocates.

Sarah Wheat, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, said she sees the obstacles women can face.

"Once they find out and are informed that Texas law prevents them from accessing an abortion right here as they're sitting already in our health center, it's too much, the barriers are too great, whether that is that they don't have access to reliable transportation or they can't get time off of their job or they don't have somebody to take care of their children. It is totally out of reach," she said.

In each month between September and December, 1,400 Texas women went out of state for an abortion, according to the University of Texas. That's more than 4,000 women. Many others who missed the deadline ordered abortion pills online, which come with risks when not taken under medical supervision.

Amy said this makes her worry.

"Women are going to get abortions," she said. "They've done it for centuries, even when they were fully illegal, and that's how women died from abortions. So if you take away this decision, you're ultimately just taking away women's lives."