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Patients in 'trigger law' states reorient after access to abortion care halts

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today's 6-3 Supreme Court decision sends the abortion issue back to the states. Alabama has multiple restrictions on the books, and clinics responded to today's ruling by stopping abortion services. Robin Marty is the operations director of the West Alabama Women's Center, one of the few clinics in the state that was, up until this morning, providing abortion care. She is also the author of the book "Handbook For A Post-Roe America."

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, Robin.

ROBIN MARTY: Thank you so much for having me again.

CHANG: Well, thank you for joining us again. The last time we spoke, we had a conversation about how to prepare if Roe was overturned. Of course, that is what has happened. What are your thoughts and feelings - like, what has been coursing through you today?

MARTY: I'm starting to slowly feel the emotions of what has happened. We were not planning for this to happen today. We knew this would happen, but we believed it was going to happen next week, so we weren't prepared for today. Today, we were seeing only first-day patients. In the state of Alabama, a patient has to come into an abortion clinic in person. They then receive counseling, have an ultrasound and will receive state-mandated information, and they need to leave for 48 hours before they are allowed to return and have an abortion.

CHANG: Right. And I wanted to ask you about that because what happens to those patients now? We're talking about patients who have just come in, and, at least under the prior law in Alabama, they did have a 48-hour waiting period required before they could access the actual abortion care. What happens to those people who have started the process to get abortion care but haven't finished it?

MARTY: They've been abandoned. Even the patients who were in having their appointments today were immediately told that Roe v. Wade was overturned. We would not be able to provide them an abortion in the state of Alabama. For each patient that was still in the clinic, we spoke to them and offered to - we'll do their first-day appointment regardless, with paperwork that they could then take to a clinic that we would be referring them to outside of our state, over in Atlanta, Ga., and then we said that we would do everything financially and logistically possible to make this transfer easy for them.

I'm currently online raising a pool of funds in order to make sure that they are paid for gas for their new procedures, for hotels if they need them - because these aren't just people who were in from the state of Alabama. These are people who had traveled across from Mississippi, from Louisiana, even from Texas.

CHANG: Right, right.

MARTY: So that was just the 21 patients that were in our clinic today. We had more than 100 phone calls for people who were supposed to have procedures next week, where we will be doing the same thing.

CHANG: Is there a particular patient whose story has stayed with you the last few days? Because I know that your clinic has obviously been anticipating this ruling, and you have been trying to see as many patients as possible in the remaining days. Is there a particular story that you'd like to talk about with us?

MARTY: I mean, every patient, quite frankly, has their own story. We have patients who have come in from Texas. We had a patient this week who came in for a first-day appointment and was hijacked by the crisis pregnancy center next door. After traveling 12 hours, she ended up in the wrong building and almost missed her appointment because she couldn't get back out. That person came in, had her first-day appointment, and I had to call her and tell her that she's not going to be able to get an abortion from us after everything she's been through.

We had a minor who came in with her mother this morning who had been a victim of sexual assault. There are no exceptions in the Alabama ban. She will not be able to get her abortion on Monday. There were people asking for exceptions. There were people asking if they could just have pills now and go. And obviously, that's not something that we could do. They were outside crying. Everyone has a story, and every story is just as worthy and as merited of why they should be allowed to have their abortion as the last one.

CHANG: Robin Marty, operations director for the West Alabama Women's Center and author of "Handbook For A Post-Roe America." Thank you very much again, Robin.

MARTY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Michael Levitt
Michael Levitt is a news assistant for All Things Considered who is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science. Before coming to NPR, Levitt worked in the solar energy industry and for the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. He has also travelled extensively in the Middle East and speaks Arabic.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.