The 33-year-old Texas woman drove alone four hours through the night to get to the Louisiana abortion clinic for a consultation. She initially planned to sleep in her car, but an advocacy group helped arrange a hotel room.

Single and with three children ranging from five to 13, she worried that adding a baby now would take time, food, money and space away from her three children.

She doesn’t have a job, and without help from groups offering a safe abortion, she said, she probably would have sought another way to end her pregnancy.

“If you can’t get rid of the baby, what’s the next thing you’re going to do? You’re going to try to get rid of it yourself. So I’m thinking: ‘What could I do? What are some home remedies that I could do to get rid of this baby, to have a miscarriage, to abort it?’ And it shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t have to do that. I shouldn’t have to think like that, feel like that, none of that.

“We have to be heard. This has got to change. It’s not right,” she said.

A nurse checks the vitals of a 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas as she rests after getting an abortion Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana.
A nurse checks the vitals of a 33-year-old mother of three from central Texas as she rests after getting an abortion Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

She was one of more than a dozen women who arrived Saturday at the Hope Medical Group for Women, a single-storey brick building with covered windows just south of downtown Shreveport.

Some came alone, others were accompanied by a friend or a partner. Some brought their children because they were unable to get childcare.

All were seeking to end pregnancies, and most were from neighboring Texas, where the nation’s most restrictive abortion law remains in effect.

It prohibits abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, after about six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest. As a result, abortion clinics in surrounding states are being inundated with Texas women.

The women agreed to speak to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, in order to talk more openly.

Like many of the others, the 33-year-old Texas mother said she tried to schedule an abortion closer to home, but she was too far along.

By the time she arrived at the clinic for the abortion on Saturday, she was just past nine weeks and had to undergo a surgical abortion rather than using medication. She said the ordeal left her angry with the Texas politicians who passed the law.

“If I had to keep this baby, ain’t no telling what would’ve happened. I probably would’ve went crazy, and they don’t understand that,” she said, her voice filled with emotion.

A 25-year-old woman made the 70-mile trip south from Texarkana, on the border of Texas and Arkansas. She said she was already five weeks along before she realized she was pregnant, and she knew it would be impossible to schedule the required two visits at a Texas clinic.

By the time she was able to make an appointment in Shreveport, her pregnancy was almost too advanced for a medication abortion.

“Luckily I found out when I did, because then I was still able to take the pill rather than the surgery,” she said.

While she was at the clinic, her husband waited for hours in the car with her young son, who is a toddler and is still breastfeeding. They had no one else available to watch him.

A 25-year-old woman from Texarkana, Texas is guided by lab technician Stephannie Chaffee Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana.
A 25-year-old woman from Texarkana, Texas is guided by lab technician Stephannie Chaffee Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

The Texas law has been bouncing between courts for weeks. The Biden administration urged the courts again on Monday to suspend it.

That effort came three days after a federal appeals court reinstated the law following a blistering lower-court ruling that created a brief 48-hour window last week in which Texas abortion providers rushed to bring in patients again.

The anti-abortion campaign that fueled the law aims to reach the US supreme court, where abortion opponents hope the conservative coalition assembled under Donald Trump will end the constitutional right to abortion established by the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling.

As most of the women entered the clinic’s parking lot, they were met by anti-abortion protesters.

John Powers, 44, a machinist from Jacksonville, Texas, said he attends twice a month aiming to get women to change their minds.

Many patients’ stories are troubling for Kathaleen Pittman, the clinic administrator. She said she recently spoke to a mother in Texas trying to get an abortion for her 13-year-old daughter, who was sexually assaulted.

“She’s a child,” Pittman said. “She should not have to be on the road for hours getting here. It is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Before the Texas law went into effect, Pittman said, about 20% of her clients were from Texas. Now that number is closer to 60%, and the women come hundreds of miles from Austin, Houston or San Antonio.

With an estimated 1,000 women per week in Texas seeking an abortion, clinics in nearby states report being overwhelmed.

The Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, which is about a three-hour drive from Dallas-Fort Worth, saw about 11 patients from Texas in August.

In September, after the Texas law went into effect, that number jumped to 110, and phones at the clinic are ringing constantly, said Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women, which also operates a clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

“Many of them are trying to literally drive through the night and then show up at 8am for their appointment, having not rested,” Tong said. “It’s just not a good situation.”

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