When the Supreme Court’s conservative majority Roe v. Wade killed Friday was the Hope Medical Center for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, crammed with patients seeking care.
Some were already in the center’s waiting rooms. Hundreds more are scheduled for the next two weeks.
But with Roe now reversed, the dozens of procedures and consultations scheduled for the day had to be canceled on the spot. Louisiana is one of 13 states with trigger laws banning abortion immediately or in the near future after Roe falls.
At Hope Medical Center, one of three abortion providers across the state, staff members and patients have faced a new reality.
“Some of the patients are really in shock. Some of our staff cry over the phone with the patients. We have a patient who is so desperate, she simply sobs, ”said Kathaleen Pittman, the clinical administrator at the Shreveport Clinic. “It is difficult. It is very difficult. “
Pittman said the clinic has so far not closed its doors, nor has it returned its licenses.
“We are definitely here for the women we still need to call and talk, or those who were under our care who may have follow-up needs. We are definitely not going to abandon them. But I tell you, the air today is thick with unbelief and sadness. ”
The clinic has been overwhelmed for months after Texas introduced the country’s strictest abortion law last fall and sent hundreds of patients to Louisiana to seek care. For now, the clinic handles a steady stream of calls as staff provide so much information about their options and the availability of other clinics – outside the state – that will not be affected by this decision. Louisiana patients who want to terminate their pregnancies surgically may have to travel hundreds of miles to Kansas, North Carolina or Illinois, where abortion remains legal, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Pittman said the ruling is not just about getting rid of abortion, it’s about getting rid of safe access.
“It will worsen their situations, especially for women who cannot get the care they need and what they deserve and to which they should be entitled. “Some will be forced to continue with a pregnancy that they cannot afford,” Pittman said.
She added that there is likely to be an increase in women trying to manage their abortions themselves, an increase in emergency room visits, and an increase in pregnancy-related adverse events and maternal deaths.
Louisiana’s maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the country, according to 2018 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to government figures, the rate is about four times higher for Black mothers than it is for white mothers. The state also has the fifth highest infant mortality rate in the United States.
David Schmit, spokesman for Lift Louisiana, an advocacy group for women and children, said the ruling would have “potentially devastating effects” on certain groups of people.
“Let us be clear that this decision will not affect privileged people, mostly whites, from accessing abortion services. “Instead, it empowers the state to continue to oppress Blacks, Indigenous and other Coloreds, low-income people, young people, people living in rural areas and other marginalized communities to gain access to abortion care,” Schmit said in said an email. “This repression is rooted in anti-Black racism, white supremacy, patriarchy and misogyny.”
Friday’s ruling sparked a law passed by the state legislature in 2006 that would impose an immediate ban on all abortions in Louisiana, except in cases where childbirth would threaten the mother’s life. There is also no exception for rape or incest.
Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who is not ashamed of his support for strict abortion laws, called for resources to be provided to women affected by the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I am and have always been unashamedly pro-life and opposed to abortion,” Edwards said in a statement shortly after the decision was made. “Being pro-life means more than just being against abortion. It means providing the necessary resources and implementing policies that offer real options and not just lip service to the children, women and families. ”
Edwards said it is critical that Louisiana fund services to support women, children and families throughout their lives.
At least two rallies were planned in New Orleans on Friday night as abortion advocates react to the fallout. Many are concerned that the ruling will affect women of color and marginalized communities the most.
Arséne DeLay, a New Orleans musician and activist, believes lives are in danger. A new generation of activism is needed, she said.
“All we have is each other, and it will require full community participation to prevent the desperation of not having access to reproductive health care from causing self-inflicted harm, and an even higher mortality rate in young girls, women and the LGBTQ community, “she said.
DeLay said she hopes people will use this moment to donate to local abortion funds, volunteer as clinic counselors, and above all, support the people and organizations already doing the work.
“There is no need to try to reinvent the wheel,” she added.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists in the state celebrated the Supreme Court decision to end constitutional protection for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years. New Orleans Democratic State Representative Mandie Landry lamented the news that the state’s closures were already in effect in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“They are closed. If they perform any abortion care, they go to jail, are arrested or heavily fined. ”
This legislative session, lawmakers passed even stricter abortion laws, which increased fines but exempted pregnant women from prosecution. Medication-induced abortions, which now account for half of all abortions, according to the Guttemacher Institute, are illegal in Louisiana.
While Pittman is angry with the Conservative judges of the Supreme Court, she places the blame on state legislators.
“As far as we are concerned in Louisiana, I have never been more ashamed of my state as it is today,” she said shortly after the verdict. “If we had people in our state legislature who were in line with what our citizens wanted and if they were in line with the needs of their citizens, we would not be in this predicament. Roe will not matter. “
Instead, state lawmakers “showed blatant contempt for their citizens, especially people of color and the marginalized communities,” she added.
Members of the Louisiana Right to Life applauded the Supreme Court’s decision and said at a news conference that it had compiled an extensive list of resources for pregnant women and parenting mothers at various parenting centers. However, critics say anti-abortion groups like Louisiana Right to Life rarely support bills to help women and families, including an increase in the minimum wage in Louisiana that will drastically improve the economic positions of patients in care.
Still, at a Friday news conference, Louisiana Executive Director Benjamin Clapper said Right to Life said his group was “ready to help women in a post-Roe abortion-free future.”
“Today is a big day. A celebration where we can now protect the rights of unborn children. We can protect their lives under the law, ”Clapper said. “But we know our work is not finished. Through an abundance of public and private resources, Louisiana is ready to support women and children before and after childbirth. ”
In Shreveport, Pittman said her clinic is considering further legal options, but for now she is focusing on women who are confused by the news and staff who have seen their work suddenly come to a standstill.
“Even though we expected bad news, it was actually even worse than I expected. It’s devastating. This is true. We had to go into comfort mode with some of the patients, ”Pittman said.
She said the center’s staff had tried to reach out to their patients to make sure they were receiving the news – and that their scheduled appointments had now been canceled.
“However, it is very difficult because we have patients who are really scared about what is going to happen now.”