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I had to travel over 700 miles out of Texas to get an abortion. Here’s my story.

Abortion Traveling for Care

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

By DakotaRei Frausto

May 15, 2024

A San Antonio community organizer shares her experience navigating abortion access in a politically regressive landscape.

“It is inexplicable until you understand that [anti-abortion narratives] have nothing to do with families or babies, but enforcing a worldview that says it’s women’s job to be pregnant and stay pregnant no matter the cost or consequence.” – Author and Journalist, Jessica Valenti 

Following the establishment of Texas’ SB8—a six-week abortion ban also fallaciously dubbed the “heartbeat bill”—and amid the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I found myself eight weeks pregnant.

Due to my menstrual cycle lasting around six weeks, I was expected to have an abortion before I even missed my period. My lengthy cycle combined with my diagnosed premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), microcytic anemia, and chronic nausea made it even more difficult to realize I was pregnant and simultaneously affirmed my want to get an abortion. 

Yet I still had to schedule an appointment for a month out and travel over 700 miles and 11 hours out of Texas to access an abortion, all while navigating hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), “bounty-hunter laws”, and financial demands. 

My story mirrors that of many others and emphasizes that healthcare—particularly concerning pregnancy and abortion—cannot conform to one-size-fits-all legislation. Any attack on “unfavorable” healthcare access inevitably impacts all healthcare access. 

My two-day trip cost almost $2,000, accounting for travel, food, lodging, and procedural expenses. Although my appointment was already scheduled, my knowledge of this financial and temporal burden made me exhaust every option I could conceive other than abortion, from intense physical activity to substance abuse. The adamant stigma coupled with legal repercussions made me question who I could trust and who I was “willing” to endanger. 

I had to travel over 700 miles out of Texas to get an abortion. Here's my story.

Photo courtesy of DakotaRei

Two years later, after working with many abortion patients with similar experiences and immersing myself in the complexities of abortion access, one thing is clear: these physical, legal, and social barriers only further postpone access, increase cost, and exacerbate risk. 

The largest contributing factor of my unintended pregnancy was not my presumed irresponsibility, but rather the negligent policies of my state legislature. Rather than investing in evidence-based policies to reduce unintended pregnancy rates, the Texas legislature has cut family planning program funding, invested in inadequate sex-ed, and restricted contraceptive access. Rather than advocating for evidence-based policies that address the concerns of pregnant people, Congress continues to enforce an unlivable minimum wage, inadequate maternal leave, and unregulated prescription drug prices. 

While anti-abortion rhetoric often depicts abortion patients as promiscuous, irresponsible, and “repeat offenders”, this stereotype fails to reflect reality. Like 45 percent of abortion patients, I was (and still am) in a committed relationship. Like 50 percent of abortion patients, I used contraceptives at the time of conception. And like 58 percent of abortion patients, I never had a previous abortion. These inaccurate stereotypes and stigmas aim to make Americans forget that these restrictions can, and likely will, impact them.

Half of the U.S. now has laws that ban or restrict access to abortion. With this ambiguous, often threatening legislation, many clinics and physicians don’t offer the procedure at all. As a result, the average American has to wait 2-3 weeks for an appointment, travel 86 miles to a provider, and pay ~$500-$1,000 (typically out of pocket) for the procedure alone. But these aren’t the only barriers patients and their supporters encounter. 

In Texas, abortion providers risk the mandatory revocation of their medical, nursing, or pharmacy license, civil damages of no less than $100,000, and five to 99 years in prison. Anyone who provided or “aided and abetted” an abortion in Texas—after fetal cardiac activity can be detected—can be sued for at least $10,000. 

Across the country, we are seeing abortion travel bans—classified as anti-trafficking laws—proposed and passed. These laws make it a felony to help teenagers travel out of state to access an abortion and don’t just apply to the person driving the teen. Laws like these are deliberately written to leave room for further restriction and scare patients and providers away from abortion. The ambiguity of these laws serves the purpose of allowing anti-abortion policymakers to incorporate further restrictions as they see fit, with supporters discussing how they can utilize the language within these laws to ban all abortion. 

Attacks on reproductive healthcare access are seldom explicit, they are slow, plausibly deniable assaults on our rights. Instead, Republicans paint contraceptives as “abortifacients” and spread disinformation about their safety and usage. Anti-abortion groups like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and crisis pregnancy center networks spread disinformation about the effectiveness of prenatal testing, manipulate medical and legal language, and urge the FDA to roll back the approval and regulation of prenatal tests. The Alabama Supreme Court rules that personhood/childhood begins at fertilization, and bans in vitro fertilization (IVF) on religious pretenses. The Arizona Supreme Court reinstates a near-total abortion ban that predates its statehood. Despite the denial of their ulterior motives, the neo-fascist policies keep coming with no end in sight. 

In addition to these attacks, we’ve seen time and time again that abortion exceptions are not made to be functional. In cases of rape exceptions, we know that 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported, so we require a police report to access abortion. In cases of maternal health exceptions, we ask just how sick people must be to qualify for care.

In my own experience, I’ve helped women access out-of-state care after being denied an abortion even though their condition was explicitly stated in their state law as an exception, cases we see being reiterated in the media. As the Supervisory Public Health Advisor of the Department of Health and Human Services said, “Exceptions function mainly as PR tools to make abortion bans seem less cruel than they are and distract from the inhumanity of the ban itself.” 

I want to emphasize the central message of my story: any attack on “unfavorable” healthcare access inevitably impacts all healthcare access. There will always be cases in which abortion is necessary, thus we shouldn’t make it any more difficult, dangerous, or expensive for parents to access. Healthcare needs and lived experiences vary widely and our legislation must reflect these complexities. 

I implore you to remain vigilant about the implications of regressive policies being proposed and passed domestically and internationally. Fabricated debates like “pro-life vs. pro-choice” and “Democrat vs. Republican” are nothing more than divisive tactics to keep us too isolated and disempowered to feel we can make a change. Resilient, united, and accurately informed communities are the most potent threat to authoritarian regimes. We know we have the power to make change because they try so hard to strip us of it. 

  • DakotaRei Frausto

    DakotaRei Frausto is a Policy Researcher & Reporter, Public Speaker, and Community Organizer based in San Antonio, Texas. An advocate for an intersectional and evidence-based approach to policy implementation, DakotaRei successfully campaigned alongside San Antonio Council members to establish a $500,000 Reproductive Justice Fund.

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