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Oklahoma impacted by Texas abortion law with influx of out-of-state patients

Lobby of Trust Women Clinic where Texans seeking abortions are traveling across state lines for appointments. (Courtesy: Trust Women)
Lobby of Trust Women Clinic where Texans seeking abortions are traveling across state lines for appointments. (Courtesy: Trust Women)
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Legal battles over abortion are crossing state lines as Texans search for an appointment in Oklahoma and Kansas.

"Right now we're seeing a significant increase in Texas patients," said Zack Gingrich-Gaylord, Communications Director for Trust Women.

Trust Women has clinics in Oklahoma City and in Wichita, Kansas.

"The increase has also led to some of the Oklahoma patients that would otherwise seek care in Oklahoma now being seen here in Kansas or surrounding states. So there's this cascading displacement effect," he said.

The organization has treated ten-times the number of patients they normally do since a restrictive abortion law went into effect in Texas on Sep. 1.

SB8 blocks abortions in Texas once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can normally be found with an ultrasound as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The law also allows private citizens to sue physicians who perform the procedure after this point.

A judge blocked the law with an injunction earlier in the week, but two days later, it was reinstated by a higher court.

Gingrich-Gaylord said there is a lot of confusion surrounding the law, so he doesn't think the 48 hour block resulted in anyone finding an appointment in Texas.

Appointments at the Trust Women clinics are booked through the first week of November, with people traveling across state lines to find access. He said the situation will become worse once abortion laws in Oklahoma change on Nov. 1.

The new laws include a requirement for only board-certified OB-GYN's to perform the procedure and more ultrasound requirements within the state.

A group of clinics and abortion advocates are represented by The Center for Reproductive Rights in a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma over the laws. The lawsuit was seen by a district judge, who placed an injunction on two of the five abortion laws set to go into effect on Nov 1.

The group is appealing the decision on the three laws not blocked by the judge. Their case argues the new laws would cut abortion providers in half.

Trust Women agrees, with about half of their doctors would remain qualified, with the other half disqualified as family practice physicians.

"Every one of those doctors is trained to be an abortion provider and there's not a difference in the training that they each get," said Gingrich-Gaylord. "There's not really a lot of sense that comes from having that even stricter requirement for the doctors."

The laws blocked by the district judge will also be appealed to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, according to lawmakers and authors of the blocked bills.

Rep. Todd Russ of District 55 authored HB 2441, stating abortions once a heartbeat is detected would be illegal. The progress of the heartbeat bill in Texas gives Russ hope for his bill as it goes through the court system.

"We're very excited and we feel like that it's become clear that the constitution mandates that we protect life," Russ said. "When you have the scientific backing to prove life begins at inception and certainly if a heartbeat is detected, there's certainly life. That is our moral responsibility and our civic and legal responsibility to protect that life."

Russ said another abortion case could also help determine the fate of his law. That is the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health out of Mississippi. The US Supreme Court will hear the case in Dec. and could have the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, the nation's precedent on abortion rights.

"It's going to have a compelling effect on all the other states' bills," said Russ.

Oklahoma also passed a 'trigger ban' law this year. It would effectively ban abortions in the state if Roe v. Wade is gutted. Texas and 11 other states have the same law in place.

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