One anti-choice organization is having a real good chuckle about the people affected by HB 2, the Texas omnibus anti-abortion law that has forced one-third of the state’s abortion facilities to cease providing abortion procedures.
National Right to Life (NRTL), which received the blessing of Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott at its anti-choice convention earlier this summer, has published a derisive and glib piece about Marni Evans, an Austin woman who had scheduled an abortion appointment for November 1 after undergoing a state-mandated ultrasound and fulfilling the required 24-hour waiting period.
When the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the evening of October 31 that the state could begin enforcing the part of HB 2 that requires abortion providers to secure admitting privileges at a local hospital, Evans’ appointment was canceled. Evans and her fiancé, John Lockhart, told their story to the Texas Tribune, much to the amusement of the National Right to Life’s News Today blog.
“It’d be hard to pick a less sympathetic couple,” the NRTL blogger scoffs at the “obviously educated” couple and their “self-indulgent, self-pitying whine.”
But that’s not the “funny” part. No, the “funny” part is the couple’s nerve at telling their story at all, being undeserving as they are of basic human respect. NRTL quotes a commenter on the video who wrote, “Is this video meant to be funny? Because it was hilarious! From the dramatic pauses for the info graphics to the contrived dialogue hitting on every ‘outrage cliche,’ this ‘interview’ was just ridiculous.”
Texans denied access to a safe, legal medical procedure: Yes, it’s a downright gigglefest.
Not only are Evans and Lockhart not uneducated, young, and bumbling enough to deserve an abortion in the opinion of the folks at National Right to Life, but the group calls the Texas Tribune itself “pro-abortion-to-the-gills,” which will likely come as a surprise to anyone who actually reads the publication; the Trib probably didn’t get Ted Cruz to grant it a one-on-one interview at this year’s popular TribFest schmooze party by advocating for free abortions on demand.
The NRTL’s headline calls Evans and Lockhart the “wrong couple to use to complain about pro-life law,” as if it’s some kind of laugh riot when two people use their honeymoon fund to book a flight to Seattle in order to exercise a constitutional right.
There is, of course, nothing “wrong” with Evans and Lockhart sharing their story, and they are brave for doing so. But what does make Evans and Lockhart a less than ideal example of the impact of HB 2 is not that they are too old, too educated, and too prone to what NRTL calls “psychobabble” about their “childish” ways. It is that they are not representative of the Texans who will be most negatively affected by HB 2.
What makes Evans stand out, despite the fact that she has been forced into a terrible and unnecessary situation, is that she has the means to travel out of state to exercise her constitutional right to legal abortion, and is able to speak publicly about it at all. Evans says as much in her interview with the Tribune: “I also think I’m lucky to be in a position in my life where I have education, I have support, I have a lifetime of knowledge. I feel OK about coming forward.”
The Marni Evanses of Texas will jump through logistical hoops to get abortions—no, they shouldn’t have to, but in the end they will get their procedures, probably legally and safely. It is the Texans who are too poor to fly to Seattle or to drive to New Mexico, who cannot easily pass through South Texas’ border checkpoints, who cannot set their own work schedules, who do not have supportive partners and families, who cannot find child care for their existing children, who must wait until their next pay day to scrape together funds—it is these Texans who will either be forced by the state to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, or who will attempt dangerous home abortions or seek out back-alley providers.
The Lilith Fund, a nonprofit that helps Texans pay for their procedures at licensed abortion facilities, answers hotline calls from these Texans every day. By their count, the fund had eight recent clients whose clinics closed before their scheduled appointments, though the number is likely much higher, since the group can only track the one-third of hotline callers whose procedures they are able to fund.
Their stories are maddening; one day these Texans had access to safe, legal abortion, and the next day they did not.
There is Elena, the Rio Grande Valley mother of three who had an appointment at Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen when the clinic was forced to stop providing abortions because the doctor there does not have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
“She was waiting ’til she got paid on October 31 so she had a little more money to put towards her procedure,” said Lilith Fund board member Sarah Tuttle, who chairs the organization’s hotline committee. But because of the timing of the Fifth Circuit ruling, which came down on the pay day that Elena was waiting for, she got caught in the gap.
And there is Suzy, the Houston mother of three who has had to push back her procedure multiple times because she hasn’t been able to raise enough money to pay for it. Now she is 19 weeks pregnant.
“She was engaged, but when she became pregnant her partner left and said he couldn’t be involved or help out to even fund the procedure,” said Tuttle. Now that Texas has banned abortion after 20 weeks, Suzy will likely have to find even more money to get to New Mexico to obtain a procedure she couldn’t afford in her hometown.
And there is Mary, a San Antonio sexual abuse survivor who became pregnant after she was raped.
“She cannot bear the thought of her rapist’s child,” said Tuttle. “She is nine weeks pregnant and was kicked out of her home when the abuse was exposed.” Tuttle says she hopes Mary was able to get an appointment before her San Antonio clinic was forced to stop providing procedures.
Perhaps these Texans’ stories of rape, abuse, and financial hardship are also “hilarious” to National Right to Life. Or perhaps it’s just easier to mock people for their demeanor—”the boyfriend just looks annoyed”—than it is to acknowledge the reality of HB 2, which will force Texans who don’t enjoy the resources or the family support that Marni Evans has, into back alleys or state-compelled pregnancy.