TEXAS — The last week has been a stressful one for anyone working in women’s health care.

Abortion clinics and advocacy groups are overwhelmed with calls from Texas women in need of abortions since Senate Bill 8, also know as the “Heartbeat Act,” became law in Texas on Sept. 1. 

What You Need To Know

  • Texas last week enacted what is regarded as the strictest abortion law in the country

  • The law bans abortion six weeks into pregnancy empowers private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who aids a woman in obtaining an abortion

  • Since then, clinics and abortion advocacy groups have been flooded with requests for assistance from abortion seekers

  • The law, critics maintain, disproportionately targets women of color 

Spectrum News 1 reached out to dozens of abortion advocacy groups and clinics. Many were so swamped with calls from patients they couldn’t even talk to us. 

Some centers had voicemail systems that were full and hotlines that couldn’t take any more requests.

Since the passage of one of the strictest abortion laws since the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, abortion advocates have been fighting nonstop for reproductive rights, and now that work is helping women access abortions out of state. The new law makes any abortion after six weeks since a woman’s last period illegal and allows anyone to sue a private business or citizen who assists a woman in getting an abortion. 

Whole Woman’s Health Senior Director of Clinical Services Marva Sadler says calls to the phone center have doubled and scheduling is full in most clinics.

“It’s not for me to become a toggle between making sure we do everything we possibly can for our patients, but also being very aware of what’s happening with our staff, who are definitely being put in a really bad position,” she said. 

The problem, Sadler says, is many women don’t have the resources to go out of state, especially women of color.

In 2020, Texas health data shows that about 30% of Texas abortions involved Black women, while only 12% of the state’s population is Black. 

Throughout the nation, Black women are also more likely to die in pregnancy-related deaths than white or Hispanic women. 

“Some of those conversations are super short and we don’t even get to the point of referrals, because the referral doesn’t matter if the woman or the family does not have the means to make that trip,” Sadler said. 

Advocacy agencies are busy fundraising for clinics to assist women. 

AVOW Political Director Caroline Duble says they have raised more than $2 million so far.

“Texas organizations like us and Texas abortion funds are going to need regular support to be sustainable throughout this fight,” Duble said. “For as long as this law is in effect, we’re going to need as many hands on deck as possible.”

We asked pro-life group Texas Right to Life to respond to these out-of-state abortion effects.

Spokesperson Kim Schwartz emailed Spectrum News this written statement:

“The abortion industry is desperate. Abortion is their biggest money-maker, so they will do anything they can to keep that income, including sending women out of state. This emphasizes the need to pass the Heartbeat Act in other states, which Texas Right to Life is already working to do. Meanwhile, the Pro-Life movement is working right here in our communities to help women in difficult or unexpected pregnancies. Pregnancy resource centers provide material assistance, job skills training, housing, and more to those in need.”

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas needs to focus more on eliminating rape so women won’t need these abortions. Texas’ abortion ban does not exempt pregnancies due to rape or incest. 

“Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them,” he said.

A study from the Guttmacher Institute found only 1% of abortions are a result of rape. 

According to the Justice Department, less than 1% of rapes reported to police are actually convicted. 

However, advocates say this isn’t about abortions, it’s justice for women, and even more so for BIPOC women who are already disproportionately dealing with reproductive issues long before this law was passed.