Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Long Read: One Hell Of A Commute

It's almost impossible today for tens of millions of women in America to get an abortion if they want one, and this is before the inevitable Roberts Court ruling that will almost certainly allow states to criminalize it.

The protesters are already positioned when she pulls up in her rental car. One lurches at women approaching the clinic, rosary beads dangling from her outstretched palm. Another hands patients tiny fetus dolls that match their skin color.

The doctor tries to ignore them. There are demonstrators at every abortion clinic and they’re all the same, she thinks: a nuisance. In Northern California, where she lives, a man yells, “Don’t take the blood money,” as she arrives at work.

At least here, in Dallas, the protesters mostly stay on the sidewalk. The doctor slips inside the mirrored glass doors of the clinic — one of the busiest abortion facilities in the United States.

She comes here once a month, part of an unofficial network of physicians who travel across state lines to perform abortions in places where few doctors are willing.

It’s not yet 9 a.m., and the clinic’s waiting rooms are filled, navigating them a game of human Tetris. Women with their husbands. Women pushing strollers. Women alone.

The young doctor will spend 60 hours in Dallas this trip and perform 50 abortions. She will have to run in the hallways to keep up with her packed schedule.

The California physician was one of more than a dozen doctors interviewed by The Times who commute to other states to perform abortions. She allowed a reporter and a photographer to accompany her to Dallas on the condition that she not be named and that her face not be shown in photographs, citing concerns for her personal safety.

The doctor acknowledged that when she began traveling out of state to perform abortions, she was nervous, recalling stories of abortion providers who have been attacked or harassed while far from home. But she said that abortion doctors living in states where access has been restricted face heightened danger and deserve her help.

“I can’t have people scare me away,” she said.

California doctors go to other states to help perform abortions because in red states, being a doctor who is willing to perform the procedure means you and your family will be a target for the rest of your life.  However long -- or short -- it may be.

Now watch what happens when Roe is overturned.

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