Bartender Kathryn Holburn published on Sunday a first-person account of her struggle to get an abortion in Texas. Thanks to the 2013 state anti-choice law HB 2, Holburn wrote, abortion clinics all over the state had shuttered, forcing Holborn to drive 600 miles to a clinic. In the end, she paid $800 for transportation plus the actual procedure.
"I want the Texas Legislature to know who I am," Holburn wrote in her piece, which was published on Tomorrow.tech. "I am one of their constituents, and I have been harmed by a law they insist was supposed to help me."
A day after Holburn's piece was published, women across the country celebrated the Supreme Court's 5-3 ruling for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down the restrictive Texas abortion law Holborn referred to in her piece. The victory was personal for many women, who flocked to Reddit to share their own experiences.
Holburn had to take time off work and cross state lines to access timely abortion services. And she's not alone. "My girlfriend and I are in the lovely state of Texas, and we had to fly to California in order to get a timely procedure done," wrote redditor _Krug.
Texas laws even affect women who are trying to have children but end up faced with tragic circumstance. Women with failed pregnancies face the same hurdles as women with unwanted pregnancies trying to access medical services for safe termination. A few months ago, one redditor shared a story in /r/Austin about his wife being forced by Texas law to carry a hopeless pregnancy to term.
"We tried a litany of emergency measures, but the sack [sic] was already outside the womb. There was nothing that we could do," wrote 11th_Doctor_Whom. "Because of this, and his age, any attempts to induce labor would be considered a late-term abortion... These laws made my wife feel our child struggle inside her for days. We cried ourselves to sleep every night. We spent four days in and out of the hospital waiting for nature to take its course."
"The same happened with me at 8.5 weeks in Texas," wrote rebel_nature, "I begged for a termination because I knew I couldn't survive much longer if I just 'waited for the inevitable'."
Although it's been 43 years since Roe v. Wade recognized women's legal right to abortion, restrictive state laws have created obstacles for women struggling to exercise this right. Such laws particularly affect low-income women and women of color: as Holburn pointed out, had she been unable to afford her abortion, her legal right to terminate her pregnancy "would have remained nothing but an abstract concept."
Lack of access to safe abortions has led some women to turn to other, more dangerous methods of terminating pregnancy. One study by the University of Texas, for instance, estimated that between 100,000 and 240,000 Texan women have attempted self-induced abortions, which the researchers argued revealed a rising trend since access to local abortion clinics became more restrictive in 2013.
Now, the Supreme Court ruling is poised to impact women across the nation by invalidating laws requiring providers to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, costly new mandates that have forced many clinics to close. The case also set a powerful precedent for women challenging state laws regulating their bodies, deeming it unconstitutional to force women to travel long distances to access basic healthcare services.
The legal debate may be universal, but the ways it impacts women's lives are scathingly personal, as these women's stories demonstrate.