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Panic and celebration in Texas

Abortion groups bemoan a new heartbeat law while pro-lifers help moms and babies


Planned Parenthood in Houston Jennifer Lake/SIPA USA

Panic and celebration in Texas
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On a busy Tuesday at the Fifth Ward Pregnancy Help Center in Houston, a young woman burst into the full lobby holding a picture of the abortion pill on her phone. “I want this! Give me this!” she screamed as tears streamed down her face.

In a conference room, the center’s executive director, Shayla Gaitor, asked her what was wrong. The woman slammed her hands on the table: “Just give me the abortion! I want the abortion!”

The woman had heard about Texas’ new “heartbeat” law, which would go into effect that night, making it illegal to obtain an abortion after the baby has a detectable heartbeat. Thinking she was pregnant, the woman rushed to the pro-life center where she had received help while pregnant with her now 1-year-old son.

A pregnancy test came back negative. She eventually calmed down. The staff prayed with her and sent her away with diapers and wipes for her 1-year-old.

But Gaitor said that experience—and a busier waiting room in the days leading up to the new law—were a wake-up call. Abortion groups continue spreading fears about the law’s consequences after the Supreme Court refused an emergency challenge to the law on Sept. 1. But pregnancy centers like Gaitor’s have long prepared to help the babies and mothers the law will help save.

“Undoubtedly the abortion industry filed this emergency petition in the Supreme Court in order to posture to the court about Roe and abortion rights,” said Steven Aden with Americans United for Life. The abortion groups want to warn the Supreme Court about overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case regarding a Mississippi law protecting unborn babies after 15 weeks. Aden thinks the posturing is unlikely to spook the court. But the public sees it.

ABC News reported one Whole Woman’s Health facility in Fort Worth completed 67 surgical abortions and around 50 follow-up appointments for chemical abortions the day before the law took effect, performing the last procedure at 11:56 p.m. A normal day sees closer to 15 and 20, respectively.

Hanah Wranosky, 21, felt pushed to take the abortion pill during her second visit to the Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services a week before the law took effect. After one consultation, she returned the next day to take the first part of the abortion pill cocktail. She was surprised when the facility staff ushered her into a room with about 15 or 20 other women and gave them the abortion pills at once, telling them to take it in front of the staff. (An online review of the facility from about a year ago shows that the staff followed a similar routine in the past.)

None of the women made eye contact or spoke to others, but Wranosky watched the others and swallowed hers quickly so she could leave. “They take your payment before you even take the pill, and it’s like $600,” she said.

One facility completed 67 surgical abortions the day before the law took effect.

Wranosky cried during the three-hour drive home. The next day, she contacted a local pregnancy center and found out about abortion pill reversal treatment. By the end of the day, she had started a twice-daily regimen of progesterone pills to halt the effects of the first abortion pill. A week later, her unborn baby still had a heartbeat.

The pregnancy center that helped Wranosky is one of four locations for the Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend. Executive Director Jana Pinson said that particular location saw a nearly 100 percent increase in services the week the law took effect compared with the same time last year.

At the Downtown Houston Pregnancy Help Center and its sister center in Houston’s Fifth Ward, where Shayla Gaitor calmed her frantic client, call volume to the center started increasing on Aug. 30. The two centers performed a total of 96 ultrasounds between Monday and Saturday—twice as many as normal, according to Sylvia Johnson-Matthews, the CEO of the Houston centers.

“This is what I’ve practiced for 36 years for,” Johnson-Matthews said.

Aden with Americans United for Life thinks Texas courts won’t enforce the law, so it won’t last long. “But for now it’s having a really beneficial teaching effect … and in this case [the heartbeat law] is teaching all that the state values life.”

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