A mother of a two-year-old, and a registered nurse in Oklahoma, my patient, who I’ll call Janet, and her husband were happy to be pregnant again. However, they discovered through a 14-week ultrasound that she had a very high-risk pregnancy with a significant chance of stillbirth. We were her closest provider: a four-hour bus ride. Due to current Texas state law, Janet had to make this trip twice without her husband, once for her ultrasound, and again after the 24-hour mandatory waiting period to have her procedure performed safely.
Generally speaking, what I have witnessed is that my patients do not change their minds based on the ultrasound image. Instead, I am repeatedly asked if they “really have to wait” the 24 hours before having the abortion, especially if they are choosing medication abortion, and why I can’t just give them the pill then, because the burden of returning to the clinic for yet another visit can be so great.
Now that the number of clinics in Texas has decreased significantly, women are traveling even greater distances than ever before. Frequently they are driving two or three hours just to get to us which requires far more days off work and to arrange childcare, and thus becomes more expensive and more difficult to keep private.
In addition to waiting period restrictions, Texas has other medically unnecessary restrictions in place aimed to make it more difficult for providers to provide compassionate, patient-centered health care. I shouldn’t have to say this, but it deserves repeating: it is insulting to me and my patients that the government feels it necessary to mandate an ultrasound viewing. I have always offered my patients the opportunity to view the ultrasound, because I honor and value my patient’s autonomy and the right to know about their health. The scripted information and mandated ultrasound requirements continue to undermine my practice and my abilities as a physician.
The women I care for, like Janet, are thankful for the work I do in spite of these laws, not because of them.