With the Heartbeat Act restricting abortions after six weeks, the women coming in for tests are earlier along, more confused, and more desperate.
On paper, Texas’s Heartbeat Act—the most restrictive ban on abortion in the country—doesn’t affect the nearly 200 pregnancy centers spread across the state, since such facilities don’t perform abortions or make abortion referrals.
Yet those who work at pro-life pregnancy centers have seen shifts in their clientele ever since the law passed in September, making it illegal to perform abortions on women when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Centers were flooded with phone calls from women worried they might be pregnant or unclear about the details of the law. Tonya Thomas, executive director of Pregnancy Help 4 U in Keller, Texas, said client calls and walk-ins picked up right away.
“Before, we would see them at 6–8 weeks of pregnancy,” she said. “Now, we’re seeing them right at 4 weeks—as soon as they think they should have their period. … They know time is of the essence.”
Women who are further along know they’ll have to cross state lines to obtain an abortion, so they go straight to facilities out of state, like in Oklahoma and New Mexico, where there are fewer restrictions. The new clientele at Texas centers often arrive in shock and desperation, never expecting to face a decision so early in pregnancy.
“We have heard of some clients being upset at the pregnancy centers themselves, thinking they are to blame for the new law,” said Vincent DiCaro, chief outreach officer (COO) of Care Net, the evangelical network of more than 1,100 pregnancy centers around the country and 168 in Texas. “Many of our centers have said it’s a very challenging environment.”
The controversial law comes as a victory for pro-life advocates—the …