I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this. Having to cope with unjust and unconstitutional violations of your right to choose should not happen to anyone, and we are appalled by how far reaching this legislation is. And from a financial perspective, we know that this law can be devastating to women.
For those who aren’t aware, here is some background for understanding how dire the situation is: SB 8 (formally known as Texas Senate Bill 8) is a law that went into effect on September 1st, 2021 that bans abortion in Texas as soon as a “heartbeat” can be detected in an embryo, which happens at about 6 weeks. (Technically, what is detected is not a heartbeat, because embryos at this stage of development don’t have heart valves, but it refers to a “flicker” that is detectable in an ultrasound at this stage of development.) This is before most women are aware they are pregnant and therefore 85-90% of abortions occur after this period. Because of this, combined with some predicted repercussions of the bill, like the closure of many of Texas’s already small number of abortion clinics, and their reduced capacity to service women who meet the parameters of in the law, SB 8 will effectively ban nearly all abortions in the state of Texas. SB 8 also makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
“Heartbeat Bills,” misnomer aside, are not new, and reproductive rights supporters have been fighting against them for years. Many don’t make it past legal challenges since they are unconstitutional and violate rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, but there is a lot of justified fear that this one may be different. There is also fear that other states will follow suit, creating larger abortion deserts in the South and Midwest.
While most anti choice laws task government officials with enforcing the ban, SB 8 prohibits state officials from doing so, and instead empowers individuals to sue anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion that violates the Bill. This can include physicians, clinic staff, counselors, supportive confidants, and anyone who provides financial help or transportation to a patient. These lawsuits are incentivized by promises of statutory damages of at least $10,000 to the accuser, plus legal fees and court costs, paid for by the defendant. The bill is the first to apply this kind of vigilante enforcement as a strategy to prevent federal court injunctions, and was designed to sidestep established precedent and produce uncertainty in terms of how to challenge the law.
The effects of SB 8 are expected to be profound.
Clinics have already closed due to financial setbacks and legal risks. Wait times at facilities in nearby states have seen significant increases due to an influx of patients from Texas who are seeking medical care out of state. More women will seek out ultrasounds when they discover they are pregnant, and in doing so will wind up at “crisis pregnancy centers,” which have a guise of providing women with choices, but actually exist to talk women out of terminating pregnancies. (I have personal experience with this and can tell you it is not pleasant.) Already, some women are traveling hours, alone, to neighboring states because they are afraid of putting friends and family at risk if they are accompanied or supported in exercising their choice.
SB 8 will have a much more severe impact on women who do not have significant financial means, people of color, and those who live in rural areas. 75% of women seeking an abortion are poor according to federal poverty indicators. 40% of women seeking an abortion cite financial concerns as a factor in not wanting to have a child.
Getting abortion access even before the 6 week mark is extremely difficult and expensive. Accessing this kind of healthcare in Texas within this timeframe would cost around $150 to get an ultrasound, and then about $450 for the procedure, plus ancillary costs like transportation, time off work, and childcare. In the best case scenario, it requires that a potential patient finds out they are pregnant and is able to secure an appointment for an ultrasound and then at a clinic in as little as 12 days after a missed period, which is hard to do in a perfect world. In a world impacted by COVID-19, this is even harder. Nearly 33% of women have experienced a cancellation or delay of contraceptive care during the pandemic. In a place where reproductive health facilities are under fire, the situation is even worse. Once the expected clinic closures occur, getting care in this short time frame could be impossible, which requires getting healthcare out of state.
In this case, the cost of obtaining an abortion skyrockets. One needs to have access to reliable transportation to travel, sometimes long distances, out of state. They also may need to secure a place to stay after the procedure for recovery, and they’ll need to take time off from work and in many cases pay for childcare while they are away. Those whose workplace policies don’t allow for paid sick days or PTO will have to eat the cost of not working in addition to the travel costs, which will have a much more profound impact on low income women seeking care.
This means many women may have to carry out pregnancies against their will due to financial constraints, which often contribute to the desire to terminate a pregnancy in the first place, leaving adequate healthcare and a full range of choices a luxury available only to those who are more well off.
So what should you do if you are afraid that you will be affected by this law? You are not alone, and there is a wide reaching support network that exists to help the nearly 54% of all US women who live in states that are considered to be hostile to abortion rights. Here are a few resources.
If you are not pregnant right now but you are concerned about how this may affect you in the future, you should consider a few things. I have to admit that making this list of preparations feels callous, because we trainers know more than most about real life financial burdens, but since it’s our job to break down real life financial costs that many of us contend with, I’ll do the best I can.
You should make sure you know how to access all of the resources available to you in terms of birth control. If your health insurance or other circumstances make this hard for you, or if you have concerns about confidentiality, you can check out resources like The Pill Club, which helps provide access to birth control by mail.
You should have an emergency dose (or several) of Plan B available. This can be purchased over the counter for around $40-$65.
Know the costs associated with accessing a safe abortion so that you can be as prepared as possible. As I said above, a surgical abortion typically costs about $600, between the ultrasound and procedure. A medication abortion averages at about $500, though in reality they can range from $75 to $1,100. In the case of having a surgical abortion out of state, you’ll need to know the location of the nearest provider, how much they charge, how much it costs to get there, and what it costs to stay in that area. If possible, you should talk with someone you trust who could accompany you so that you know you will be supported along the way.
If you live in Texas and you are worried that you may not be able to access the care you need, there are organizations and individuals who can and want to support you. There are resources like Plan C Pills, which helps people get access to medication abortions that they can administer at home. Fund Texas Choice helps connect patients with organizations that provide support for transport and accommodations. Women’s Medical Support provides emergency financial support (and also organizes to protect the right to choose). The Lilith Fund is a group in Texas that helps cover abortion costs for low income Texans. There are also numerous private Facebook groups where people share their own experience, offer support and connections to resources, and where members share stories of their own abortion experiences that can be helpful if you if you need a sympathetic ear or have questions about what the process would be like. Out of an abundance of caution I will not share them here, but you can find them through a Google search.
If you are a person who has the means to support others who need to access to safe reproductive healthcare, you can donate to the organizations listed above, as well as others like the National Network of Abortion Funds. You can also look for mutual aid networks and help provide accommodations for those traveling long distances to access safe medical care.
Thank you for asking this important question and giving us an opportunity to support you and others who are affected by this issue.
I’m a woman living in Texas and I am terrified by the new SB 8 law. What would this mean for me financially? is written by Terri Bennett, A Certified Financial Trainer for financialgym.com