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Abortion Clinics In Texas Are Turning Women Away After SCOTUS Upholds New Law

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Abortion providers in Texas are scrambling as a near-total abortion ban takes effect in that state. The law bans abortions after about six weeks, earlier than most women even know they are pregnant. The Supreme Court upheld the law in a 5-to-4 vote - that was late last night - which leaves Texas clinics that perform abortions in a legal bind. Amy Hagstrom Miller is the president of Whole Woman's Health. They provide abortions in Texas. They tried to get the Supreme Court to stop the Texas law. And Amy Hagstrom Miller joins us now. Welcome.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: Thank you so much.

KELLY: Would you just describe for me - what were your clinics like on Tuesday in the last hours before this law took effect?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So there was a tremendous demand, saw at least twice as many patients as normal. And one of our clinics was open and saw its last patient just a few minutes before midnight.

KELLY: Right. And how about today? How busy are they? What are you hearing from people coming in?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So it's been pretty sobering. The staff are experiencing tremendous grief because they've had to turn so many patients away. And those patients are just filled with anguish. They're begging to be seen. You know, 50 patients on the schedule and maybe only five who are early enough in the pregnancy now to have an abortion in Texas under these new standards.

KELLY: Well, I want to dig a little bit deeper into where this leaves you and what you are able to do. This new law, SB 8, as it's called it, basically deputizes individuals, private citizens, to sue not only anyone who performs an abortion but anyone who, quote, "aids and abets" the procedure. I'm looking at your website right now, as we're speaking. It says you are in full compliance with SB 8, with the new law. But you also have links on your website to resources, referrals for women who are past six weeks of pregnancy. Any concern you could be sued for that?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So for folks who are denied abortions in Texas, we are connecting them with resources to help them travel if they're able to and with clinics outside of Texas. We understand that some of that might be framed as aiding and abetting. I think it's interesting they're already trying to criminalize that even in the language they're using. But all of that information is available in the public domain. So we have chosen to connect to some of those listservs and hosting it on our website as a way to, really, you know, allow our staff to lean on our Whole Woman's Health website, knowing that anti-abortion folks, you know, may come after us no matter what we do and knowing that that could happen, just trying to, you know, have Whole Woman's Health be the resource or be the entity instead of my frontline receptionist who may answer the phone.

KELLY: Are you worried that, for women who cannot travel, this law may force them to drastic measures, that women in Texas will continue to get abortions but the procedure will be less safe?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So it's my experience that most of the patients who will be denied abortions in Texas will be forced to carry pregnancies against their will. We will see people choose to self-manage their abortion. And honestly, what option has the state left people? Access to safe abortion makes communities healthier. And I think we're going to see a public health emergency on our hands if we don't get some relief.

KELLY: Did you stay up late last night watching to see what the Supreme Court would do?

HAGSTROM MILLER: Yes, I did. I have not gotten a lot of sleep lately.

KELLY: The court, as you know, did not close the door to future challenges to this law. As the president of an organization who's been on the front lines in the legal battles, what is your plan?

HAGSTROM MILLER: So I think it's remarkable that Chief Justice Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion in this case. And I think there are other legal recourses for us to take next. We are looking at our options about next steps, and I think this isn't over yet.

KELLY: Amy Hagstrom Miller - she is the president of Whole Woman's Health. Thank you.

HAGSTROM MILLER: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.