In May 2021, thousands of protesters came out in response to a new Texas bill outlawing abortions after six weeks.Sergio Flores/Getty

“If I say abortion exists as a concept, can I get sued?”

Last night, when I was up too late doomscrolling through Twitter while mourning the demise of women’s constitutional rights, I couldn’t stop thinking of my friend, who I’ll call Laura. Laura is an OB-GYN in Fort Worth, Texas. Since she moved there almost five years ago from the East Coast, our communication has shifted from our favorite trash TV shows to lamenting the bleak outlook for women and women’s health care in her new home state.

Even for someone who follows the news, the human consequences of Texas’ relentless assault on reproductive rights came as a bit of a shock to Laura—like when, shortly after she’d moved there, a pregnant woman in her early 40s and in a hostile relationship sought advice. “She was devastated and scared to get an abortion, personally and culturally, but knew she needed to do it,” Laura tells me. “So I counseled her, supported her, and went to my desk to call and schedule it.” The hospital representative asked how many weeks the patient was, and “just because it’s a new place [for me], I’m like, ‘It’s good to do an elective [abortion] here?’ The woman on the other side of the phone loses it and says, ‘Oh my gosh, absolutely not. We don’t do that.’”

Laura called three other places—hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers where she has surgical privileges. They all told her no. Laura had to go back to the patient and tell her she could not do it, and that she’d need to go to a clinic, but the woman balked. “She says she can’t do that—knows about the protesters. She says she could only do it after forming a bond with the doctor who counseled her: me.” Now, at least until the Supreme Court intervenes, the options are drastically worse for women like Laura’s patient.

Texas was never an easy place to be an OB-GYN, but when SB 8 took effect at midnight last night, banning abortions at six weeks and deputizing citizens to inform on people who “aid and abet” abortions, it became damn near impossible. (This is why Laura and I agreed not to use her real name or identify exactly where she practices.) Sure, Laura, who has privileges at a big private hospital in Fort Worth, rarely provides any abortions herself, but she can’t help but worry that giving her best medical advice will land her in court. She takes some solace in knowing that most of the brave people providing abortions “are together,” overwhelmingly working in clinics like Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health, where they will figure out the next steps. But, she says, that still “leaves behind counseling. When a young patient shows up, what can I say or do?”

We caught up on Wednesday morning to talk about what it’s like on the ground right now after this momentous change. She called from her car, parked at a church next to the “eerily empty” Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Fort Worth, which was one of the biggest abortion providers in the state. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

Well, well, well. Sad to talk to you today.

Well, hello—just another day in the new but old America that is Texas.

It’s chaos!

Well—it’s not chaos. It’s just government functioning as usual. It’s mental and emotional chaos.

This morning I was walking around the hospital and am like, Is anyone else thinking about this like I am? It feels normal here. Oh, are we all good? There are definitely people who I know for sure are anti-abortion, so I wouldn’t bring it up at work. But we got an email this morning saying something like: Reminder this went into effect today. It was mostly screenshots highlighting the language of the actual law.