waiting room

Thanks to clinic closures, some Texans are forced to wait 20 days to get an abortion

According to an unsurprising but nonetheless concerning study, when half the abortion clinics in a state are forced to shut down, wait times to schedule an abortion appointment increase — by a lot. 

The study is the latest from an ongoing research project exploring the effect of the anti-choice restrictions Texas passed in 2013. Previously, the researchers found that the legal abortion rate in the state had decreased by 13 percent thanks to the clinic closures.

In this new study, they found those who are able to access abortion are sometimes having to wait for nearly three weeks to get the procedure. Mother Jones reports:

New research from the University of Texas—Austin has found that women seeking abortions in cities such as Dallas, Forth Worth, and Austin face staggering wait times of up to 20 days before they can get the procedure. The data, which researchers working for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project released Monday, provides a startling look at the effects of abortion clinic closures in Texas just as the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to hear a case that could slash the number of remaining clinics by half.

Researchers documented wait times for clinics in Forth Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston from November 2014 to September 2015. In Austin, the average wait over the course of those 11 months was 10 days. In Dallas and Fort Worth, the annual average was 5 days. They also calculated the average monthly wait times and the range of wait times in a given month and found that average wait times within a single month reached up to 20 days in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—where there are five abortion clinics—and wait times for individual patients could reach up to 23 days.

The last remaining restriction Texas passed — that all clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers — is currently on hold thanks to the Supreme Court. The researchers warn that if is allowed to go into effect, wait times across the state will get so long that the number of second trimester abortions is likely to double. Though still very safe, second trimester abortions have a higher risk of complications and are significantly more expensive.

Costs and risks aside, you know what is really, really stressful when you are pregnant and don’t want to be? Spending even a minute more time than necessary continuing to be pregnant. I had to wait for six days before getting my abortion and, let me tell you, even that was more than enough. I hope that if and when the Supreme Court weighs whether or not Texas’s restrictions pose an “undue burden” on the right to choose, they will hear from some of these women who had to wait for weeks. Because I don’t see how forcing someone who wants an abortion to stay pregnant for nearly a month is anything but an immoral cruelty.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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