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Planned Parenthood expands services as more Texans seek reliable birth control following abortion ban

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.

Clinicians say they are seeing an influx of "panicked" patients trying to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas said it is increasing its birth control services and offering patients financial help in the wake of Texas' new abortion law.

Elizabeth Cardwell, lead clinician at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said she’s been seeing an influx of panicked patients seeking more “effective and reliable” forms of birth control since the law went into effect in September.

“Patients are very apprehensive about their ability to detect the pregnancy early enough where they can actually come in — if they are not wanting to continue a pregnancy — to terminate [the pregnancy],” she said.

The law bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy — before many women even realize they are pregnant. It's the most restrictive abortion law in the country.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas operates health centers all over the state, including Austin, Dallas, Waco and El Paso. The clinics have been getting more questions about long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants, in particular, Cardwell said.

“Patients are really desperate to make sure they can protect themselves against any unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

“They missed a birth control pill or a couple of pills. Now they are panicked about even the possibility that they might be pregnant."
Elizabeth Cardwell, lead clinician at Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas

People who work in reproductive health clinics in Texas say they have been seeing this trend across the state.

Cardwell said patients have been coming to clinics as early as they can in case they might need an abortion. She said she’s had people call to schedule an abortion before even getting a positive pregnancy test, “just in case."

“They missed a birth control pill or a couple of pills,” she said. "Now they are panicked about even the possibility that they might be pregnant. They really get how challenging it is to get an abortion in Texas right now.”

Kara Eisenstat, a junior at UT Austin, said she's concerned the law has been allowed to stay in effect for more than two months now.

“I have been super worried,” she said. “It’s been scary. I just feel like my rights have been taken away as a woman.”

Planned Parenthood officials have said most people coming in to their clinics to get an abortion since Senate Bill 8 went into effect have been too late.

Besides screenings and birth control services, Planned Parenthood announced it is also offering patients seeking an abortion financial assistance.

According to a press release, that includes assistance to “reduce the cost of their medical care,” as well funds for travel expenses, such as “gas cards, flights and other travel and lodging support” for patients who are forced to leave the state for an abortion because they are too far along to get one in Texas.

Since SB 8, Planned Parenthood clinics have also been sending patients home with kits that include emergency contraception, early-detection pregnancy test and condoms, as well as information about the Texas law.

Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said this “initiative” comes at an important time for patients.

“Access to reproductive healthcare is more important than ever with so many Texans underserved by Texas’ healthcare policies and devastated by Texas’ extreme abortion ban,” he said in a statement.

Most of the expanded services for people who are low-income or uninsured is being paid for by donations, Cardwell said.

“Since Senate Bill 8, our donors have really stepped up,” she said. “They have been very, very generous.”

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Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.