A Texas clinic has received an influx of sterilisation requests since Roe v Wade was struck down

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade on Friday means abortions in Texas are set to be banned from the moment of fertilisation, except in very specific circumstances.

Less than 72 hours since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade was announced, women in states where abortion is being dramatically restricted are taking shocking steps to gain control of their bodies. 

According to Insider, a women’s health clinic in Texas has received an influx of requests for tubal ligation – otherwise known as permanent sterilisation – since the landmark ruling was overturned on Friday. Over the weekend, the Women’s Health Domain clinic in Austin, Texas, received 109 new patient requests, the majority of which were inquiring about the procedure.

In Texas, abortion has been banned after six weeks of pregnancy – a time at which many women aren’t even aware they’re pregnant – since September 2021, with exemptions in cases where it is needed to save the life of a pregnant person.  

However, over the next few weeks, things are set to get even worse with a “trigger law” in place prior to Friday’s ruling that means a near-complete abortion ban will come into action 30 days from the date Roe v Wade was overturned. This ban will make abortion illegal from the point of fertilisation, except in cases where it is needed to save the life of a pregnant person or to prevent “substantial impairment of major bodily function”.

While sterilisation is an option that can be hugely reassuring to women who want to go down that route, as with abortion, it should be a decision freely made and without pressure.

Dr Tyler Handcock, an obstetrics and gynaecology practitioner who runs Women’s Health Domain, said a lot of the women seeking the clinic’s help were motivated by fear about what the bans might mean for them, with many expressing fears that even more of their rights would be stripped away in the future.

“I sense that they’re scared, they’re anxious, they’re nervous,” he said of his patients. “They’re fearful that other rights are going to be taken away. Maybe they’re afraid contraception in general will be taken away down the road. So, they want to take care of this now because they don’t feel like anybody is supporting them.” 

These fears – that contraception could be restricted or banned over the coming months – are not unfounded. For a while now, experts have warned that the overturning of Roe v Wade could pave the way for more individual autonomy laws to be challenged.

And in one of the opinions published as part of the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday, the conservative Justice Clarence Thomas argued that it was time for the court to revisit and overrule a number of cases, including those protecting the right to contraception, same-sex intimacy and same-sex marriage.

Experts are fearful that the end of Roe v Wade could lead to challenges on contraception access and same-sex marriage.

Experts are also concerned that many states could try to challenge some forms of birth control because of the wording of their abortion bans, which make abortion after fertilisation illegal. This means that forms of contraception which prevent implantation – such as emergency contraception and IUDs – could be targeted.  

“The states that are trying to limit abortion from the moment of conception – not even from the moment of pregnancy, as the medical profession would define it – could well try to challenge Plan B, emergency contraception and potentially even IUDs,” Wendy Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University, told NBC News.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some local prosecutor, either a zealous believer or headline seeker, tries to make a name for themselves by trying to go after some physician or Planned Parenthood clinic for violating the state abortion law by giving out emergency contraception.”

However, despite the horrific restrictions that are coming into place, many abortion clinics and activists have vowed to continue their fight for reproductive healthcare. 

In Mississippi, where abortion is set to become illegal over the coming weeks, Jackson Women’s Health Organisation – the state’s last abortion centre and the focus of the case that overturned Roe v Wade – has vowed to continue providing abortions until it is forced to close and promised it will continue to ensure that women have access to the care they need.

And in Texas, Handcock says he will continue to support the women who need his help. While he acknowledges the risk of regret with permanent sterilisation – and says he’ll make sure to talk to patients about the options available to them – he is also keen to make sure people get the healthcare they want.

“I think it’s going to be a huge shift with this thunderous change in our society as of Friday, where we’re going to see patients who have never had kids request permanent sterilisation,” he explained to Insider. “And I think that’s OK. I’m an advocate for them as well.” 

Images: Getty

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