Do abortion laws work? Many abortion activists will tell you no. Some cynical anti-abortion activists of the “abolitionist” variety will also say no. But if you talk to abortion workers in Texas right now in the wake of the still-standing 6-week ban, they’ll tell you something quite different. From The Lily:
Joe Nelson arrived at the abortion clinic at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 8. The doctor made himself a cup of coffee, chatted with the receptionist, then settled into a desk cluttered with paperwork and maxi pads. He answered some emails. Then he opened his book on Zen Buddhism and read.
He did not see a patient for almost two hours.
Before Sept. 1, when Texas banned almost all abortions, Nelson rarely sat down. The only full-time doctor at Whole Woman’s Health in Austin, he hustled from room to room. For lunch, he would scarf down a protein bar.
Nelson used to perform up to 30 abortions a day; since the ban took effect, he might do two or three. That didn’t change when a federal judge issued an injunction on Oct. 6, temporarily blocking the law, which bans abortions once early cardiac activity can be detected, around six weeks gestation, before most people know they’re pregnant. Like many other doctors in Texas, Nelson decided to continue complying with the ban until other courts weighed in. On Oct. 8, the conservative-leaning U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction. Abortion after six weeks is, once again, illegal.
The entire point of this story, of course is to issue a dire warning about the state of “abortion care” in Texas and the reality that many abortionists like Joe Nelson are now considering quitting the industry entirely. Nelson says that he sees abortion as his “life’s calling,” but is now considering finding other work. He isn’t the only one:
At Whole Woman’s Health, one of the largest abortion providers in Texas, nine of the network’s 17 doctors in the state stopped performing abortions when Senate Bill 8 took effect. Many of those doctors are in their 30s and 40s, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health. They know lawsuits could jeopardize their medical licenses, she said. Even if a lawsuit goes nowhere, she added, they will have to disclose it anytime they apply for malpractice insurance, hospital admitting privileges or a license to work in another state. Some doctors with other jobs have been forced to quit, Hagstrom Miller said: Their employers decided the law was too much of a liability. Others may have been deterred by a drop in their salaries, which can fluctuate depending on how many patients they see.
Even if the law is eventually overturned, many clinics will struggle to find abortion workers and to rebuild their businesses. The months of legal limbo can easily destroy an abortion business—a previous Texas law that was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court still managed to put more than a dozen clinics out of business.
Nelson, for his part, says that he believes God “called him” to do abortions, and is so dedicated to ending the lives of children that he rarely has time to see his own. “His sons faded from his life as abortion came to the fore,” the interviewer noted in a sentence that reveals a bit more than she perhaps intended. Nelson has branched out into transgender “care” as well to make ends meet. In the meantime, staff are quitting abortion clinics in droves:
Once the six-week ban passed in May, it wasn’t long before clinic staff started to quit. In July, the Austin branch of Whole Woman’s Health lost five staff members in three weeks, including the clinic director and Nelson’s surgical assistant. “We got gutted,” said April Collins, the receptionist. Few explicitly mentioned Senate Bill 8 when they left, but Nelson said he suspected the law factored into their decisions. Low on staff who could help Nelson during the procedure, the clinic had to stop performing surgical abortions.
Abortion bans work. They close down clinics, drive staff out of the abortion industry, and remind the public that these laws are in place to protect pre-born children from a gruesome death. That, in my view, is success.