The road to Gilead goes through Oklahoma, as women are being turned away from abortion services and medication already, under what would have been a patently unconstitutional six-week limit of abortions signed into law by GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt, and just the threat of a SCOTUS decision obliterating Roe means there will be no challenge to it in the courts whatsoever.
Oklahoma’s six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 1503, is only the second in the nation to go into effect. Texas, the first, has had its ban in place since 1 September. The impact of Oklahoma’s ban could be seismic in Texas and Oklahoma – last fall, Oklahoma emerged as the state that Texans seeking abortions were most likely to travel to for care. Some drove hundreds of miles, spending thousands of dollars to make the journey. Already, clinicians in Oklahoma are trying to devise strategies to help their patients get to clinics in neighboring Kansas. But there are limits to what they can do.
And even access at six weeks is not expected to last long. Last week’s draft leak has chilled abortion providers across the country, confirming what many had anticipated for months. Unless something dramatic shifts, the court will probably overturn Roe in a matter of weeks. When that happens, states will have the power to ban abortion entirely. And in both Oklahoma and Texas, that will happen. They are among the 13 states that have passed what are known as trigger laws – legislation crafted to ban abortion almost right away once Roe is struck down.
For many, the draft decision put a post-Roe reality into sharp clarity. But for clinicians in Oklahoma, like in Texas, the moment is already here. And few people are paying attention.
“There’s kind of this view of these states as disposable – that there aren’t valuable people that live here,” said Kailey Voellinger, who runs the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. “It feels like we’re afterthoughts.”
Since the new six-week ban took effect, neither President Joe Biden nor his press office has put out a statement about Oklahoma’s new law, despite publicly condemning similar bans passed in Texas and Idaho, and criticizing other Oklahoma bans that have not yet taken effect. (Idaho’s six-week ban has been blocked by its state supreme court.) The Department of Justice – which sprang into action when Texas’s six-week ban took effect – has been similarly quiet.
And in the meantime, patients keep calling the state’s four clinics for appointments.
Trust Women and Tulsa Women’s Clinic are still providing the service. Those who are providing care are only seeing patients up to six weeks of pregnancy, but patients well beyond that are still calling to seek abortions. Many learn about the new six-week ban only on that initial phone call.
“There’s a lot of shock and disbelief from patients, reacting like, ‘What do you mean I’ve got to go out of state?’ ‘That’s crazy, I can’t afford to take off work, I can’t leave my kids that long, how am I supposed to do that?’” Gallegos said.
Patients are angry, Voellinger said. “I’ve had two staff people tell me they got off the phone with a patient who was like, ‘Well, what am I supposed to do? Kill myself?’
“People are exasperated and don’t know what to do,” she added.
In the clinics, the shift has been stark. Right up until the six-week ban took effect, appointments had been booked solid, the waiting rooms full of Texans and Oklahomans. Abortion appointments were booked two to three weeks out.
That has changed since last week. But in the days after the six-week ban took effect, the Tulsa Women’s Clinic performed abortions for eight patients, and then 10 the next day. That represented about half the people who came in for abortions, Gallegos said. The rest thought they were within six weeks of pregnancy, but learned at the clinic they were too far along. On the third day after the ban, 20 patients – two-thirds of the people who had booked an appointment – were able to get the abortions they had sought.
There are no more Texans coming for care. And the tight timeline of six weeks, Gallegos added, means that the patients who are coming for abortions have barely had time to think about their decisions. They’re being forced to rush, often without the luxury of even an extra day.
“It’s awful to have to tell the patients, ‘You can ultimately do what you need to do, but if you don’t do this today you don’t have the option any more,’” she said.
It's already too late for many women, and the ban on abortion will end up killing thousands of women in states like Oklahoma and here in Kentucky in the weeks and months ahead.
There's no doubt in my mind that the draft decision was leaked to give red states to go-ahead to ban abortion and paralyze the courts when it came to issuing stays for the unconstitutional bans. By July 4th, abortion will be gone for more than half of America's women. The pain and suffering is already real in several states.
It only gets worse from here.
Unless we vote in November in record numbers.