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Demand for emergency contraception surges after leaked draft of abortion decision

 An example of a ReproKit that Every Body Texas sends out via mail to requestors across the state.
Every Body Texas
An example of a ReproKit that Every Body Texas sends out via mail across the state.

When Every Body Texas received a federal grant in January to help facilitate the delivery of emergency contraception kits across the state, the organization soon assembled and distributed packages containing two doses of emergency contraception, two pregnancy tests, condoms, lube packets, and information booklets.

The group, which also supports clinics with Title X funds, averaged fewer than two dozen daily requests for the kits.

But since Monday, when a leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of abortion was made public, the number of requests skyrocketed to more than 700 in less than 48 hours.

The surge in demand highlights the uncertainty about the future of reproductive rights in Texas should the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade be reversed.

Mimi Garcia, the communications director for Every Body Texas, said access to emergency contraception like the type the organization is providing is especially important to Texans who can’t afford it or worry about being shamed for accessing it.

“This is really meant for people who either don't have the means or maybe don't have the privacy, or in some ways, the means to access these things,” she said. The kits don’t contain misoprostol, the so-called abortion pill used in some cases to terminate a pregnancy. Instead, they come with Levonorgestrel which will prevent a pregnancy.

“If you're already pregnant, taking Levonorgestrel is not going to hurt your pregnancy. It's not going to disrupt your pregnancy. It's also not going to harm the fetus,” she said.

Garcia said a lot of the requests since Monday evening have come from areas that include major universities, including Lubbock, San Marcos, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

If the draft opinion remains unchanged and Roe v. Wade is overturned, Texas will implement its so-called trigger law, House Bill 1280, which would make it a second-degree felony “for a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion” according to the bill analysis. The penalty would increase to a first-degree penalty “if the unborn child dies as a result of the offense.”

The legislation passed in 2021 and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. It also adds a fine of at least $100,000 for each offense. The law would take effect 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v. Wade or 30 days after the issuance of a separate ruling that has the same effect.

Garcia said the message now is “get it before you need it.”

“What we also find is that particularly people who don't have a lot of extra money, but also minors and students or people who may be in a unsafe relationship, are not going to have either the funds or the freedom of movement to go get [emergency contraception] on their own in a timely manner,” she said.

That’s especially true for people living in one of Texas’ “sanctuary cities for the unborn” - local entities that have declared abortion to be murder and that prohibit abortion facilities from opening within their city limits, according to Texas Right to Life. The organization lists more than 40 cities in Texas that have voted to be “sanctuary cities” and would like that number to increase.

“Now is the time for Americans everywhere to protect unborn children in their communities,” the website states. “Texas Right to Life wants to help you to make your city a sanctuary of Life. Our team has compiled a helpful guide for citizens willing to protect their unborn neighbors with this Pro-Life city ordinance.”

Garcia acknowledges the future could be bleak for Texans seeking an abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decides to overturn Roe v. Wade. But she said it’s important to continue providing access to and education about contraception and other reproductive measures

“We are committed to increasing access to sexual reproductive health care. And that is a whole list of services,” she said. “Women and men who need to access contraceptive services and need to access STI testing and treatments still struggle with that in this state.”

As a grantee for what’s known as Title X, Every Body Texas receives and distributes millions of dollars annually that is provided by the federal government to family planning clinics and agencies across the state. After Texas’ Senate Bill 8 — which effectively bans abortions as early as five weeks into a pregnancy — was signed into law, the Biden administration allocated a dire need funding grant from the Office of Population Affairs, Garcia said. Senate bill 8 went into effect in September and also allows for private citizens to sue people who perform abortions, awarding $10,000 and legal fees after a successful lawsuit.

Garcia said federal funding has helped Every Body Texas expand its ability to provide emergency contraception throughout the state by taking some pressure off the on-the-ground providers that were manually delivering the kits.

Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Julián Aguilar is a digital breaking news reporter and producer for The Texas Newsroom.
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