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This Texan woman took 2 planes and traveled 3 states for reproductive health care


The U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. That's according to a draft decision leaked this week to Politico. But access has already been vanishing in parts of the country since Texas outlawed the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. Katia Riddle brings us this story of one Texas woman navigating abortion in a new reality.

KATIA RIDDLE, BYLINE: The day she took the pregnancy test is one Marisol will never forget.

MARISOL: It was a Monday. I was just feeling different.

RIDDLE: Marisol asked to be identified by her middle name only. She's a nurse in Texas. She fears professional repercussions from publicly telling her story.

MARISOL: Sure enough, it didn't even take a whole minute to turn. It was immediately pregnant.

RIDDLE: And do you remember your feeling when you saw that line?

MARISOL: I will not lie. I had a lot of mixed emotions because I do like to become a mom eventually.

RIDDLE: The decision not to carry the pregnancy was wrenching. The 32 year old is not in a long-term partnership. She grew up with a single mom. It was a struggle.

MARISOL: I kind of told myself that I refuse to put my kids through that. Not that I regret it because it's made me who I am. But I didn't want my kids to have to go through that.

RIDDLE: This marked the beginning of a weeks-long trial for Marisol navigating state abortion laws. Her first stop was a clinic in Houston. Marisol thought she was under the six-week deadline. But it was too late. An ultrasound picked up cardiac activity. The nurse asked her if she wanted to hear it.

MARISOL: I just chose not to. She asked, and I couldn't do it.

RIDDLE: Marisol would have to travel. Often with the abortion pill, providers require a return visit. But Marisol wanted to leave the state only once. In that case, she would need a surgical abortion. She called the clinics in nearby Louisiana and Oklahoma.

MARISOL: All of those places, unfortunately, were, like, booked for weeks. There were even, like, waiting lists.

RIDDLE: Eventually, Marisol got an appointment in a clinic in Tampa, Fla. But when she woke up from the anesthesia, the doctor had bad news for her.

MARISOL: And she took me to the back to her office. And she was basically like, you're not going to like this. But we weren't successful with the procedure.

RIDDLE: The doctor found a fibroid in her uterus. It's a common condition. But the doctor said it made it impossible for her to perform the procedure. Still pregnant, Marisol returned home. She consulted her regular OB-GYN in Texas.

MARISOL: He knew I wanted answers and needed answers.

RIDDLE: He had only one answer he could offer her - hysterectomy.

MARISOL: And I think that was the only option that he could actually perform himself.

RIDDLE: Legally.

MARISOL: Exactly.


At this point, she was eight weeks along and panicking. As a nurse with medical training, she wasn't ready to accept that removing her uterus was her only option.

MARISOL: And I was a wreck at work. I couldn't focus. I was crying.

DYANA LIMON-MERCADO: In Texas, we have already been facing devastating blows to abortion access in state.

RIDDLE: Dyana Limon-Mercado is with Planned Parenthood Texas. In the months since the state's ban was passed, she says there was a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients in surrounding states. She says, if Roe is overturned, there are 36 million women of reproductive age in states that will likely ban abortion. They will have no choice but to make long journeys for the procedure. If they can't...

LIMON-MERCADO: There is a whole other set of people who will be forced to carry pregnancies against their will.

RIDDLE: Finally, after hours on the phone, three states, two plane rides, thousands of dollars and missed days of work, Marisol got an appointment. In a Seattle clinic, a doctor takes complicated cases like hers. She had help with expenses from a nonprofit called Northwest Abortion Access Fund. It's the morning of the procedure.


RIDDLE: Marisol calls her mom to say a quick prayer together. She's anxious, sitting in the hotel lobby.

MARISOL: (Speaking Spanish).

RIDDLE: Marisol says she's ready to be done with the emotional tightrope she's been walking.

MARISOL: I mean, I think it's a sad moment. But I don't want to look at it that way.

RIDDLE: You're not letting yourself go there.

MARISOL: I don't want to go because I think it'll be harder for me later on.

RIDDLE: Ten hours later, Marisol is back at the hotel. The procedure was successful. She's breathing easy. She's smiling. She's at peace with her choice, she says, knowing she won't have to be a single mom the way her mom was.

MARISOL: I wanted a dad for my kids - at least try, give it a chance.

RIDDLE: A chance someday to raise a family on her own terms when the time is right.

For NPR News, I'm Katia Riddle in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Katia Riddle
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