A high-profile abortion provider is opening new clinics in Illinois and New Mexico and shuttering his two clinics in Oklahoma and Texas, where abortion has been banned in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, providers in antiabortion states have been wrestling with whether to stay put — and offer other health-care services to women in their communities — or uproot their operations to a state where abortion is still legal.
While Braid expects to care for many women from Texas and Oklahoma in his new clinics, he said, he knows many patients in the communities he served for years won’t be able to make the trip.
San Antonio, where Braid’s Texas clinic was based, is an 11-hour drive from Albuquerque and a 14-hour drive from Carbondale.
“They will be forced into carrying their pregnancy to term,” he said. “Or they will seek other means that are not safe, and we’ll see a return to the ’60s and ’70s when women died.”
Braid has been an outspoken advocate for abortion access for years, fighting against increasingly strict antiabortion restrictions in Oklahoma and Texas. His clinics have been plaintiffs in approximately 10 lawsuits filed against antiabortion legislation. Rather than close his doors in 2015, when new restrictions forced approximately half of all abortion clinics in Texas to shutter, Braid took out a loan and began building a $3 million state-of-the-art facility to comply with the laws.
In September, Braid performed an abortion on a patient who had passed Texas’s new six-week legal limit and wrote about it in a Washington Post op-ed — a move designed to bait lawsuits from antiabortion activists and, he’d hoped, overturn the state law.
“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences,” Braid wrote in the op-ed, “but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Texas’s six-week abortion ban, which withstood multiple legal challenges, has been replaced by a pre-Roe abortion ban from 1925 that took effect after the Supreme Court ruling and outlaws almost all abortions.
Local antiabortion activists say they’re thrilled Texas patients will no longer have easy access to Braid’s clinic.
Women “used to stream in like fish down the river,” said Norma Reyna, an antiabortion activist who has been protesting outside Braid’s San Antonio clinic for years. When the clinic closes its doors, she said, she’ll be “ecstatic.”
“It’s hard to even describe how happy I’ll be,” she said. “It’ll be just heaven.”
Now that Braid will be operating in two Democrat-run states, he said, he plans to focus on providing top-notch medical care to his patients.
“No more Zoom calls with lawyers,” he said. “I can just be a doctor again.”
Braid’s clinic in San Antonio, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, was forced to stop providing abortions as soon as the Supreme Court overturned Roe.
They had about 15 patients in the waiting room, Braid said.
“We had patients break down hysterically, and patients very angry who took out their anger on us,” he said.
One by one, Braid said, he and his staff talked each patient through her options, referring most to New Mexico, where clinics were already scheduling appointments several weeks out.
Other clinics based in states where abortion is now illegal have announced plans to move to New Mexico to help absorb a surge of out-of-state patients, including Whole Woman’s Health, a network that had four clinics in Texas, and Jackson Women’s Health Organization, widely known as “the pink house,” which had been the only clinic in Mississippi.
The moves to New Mexico and Illinois will be logistically challenging, Braid said. Only a few of his staff members will be able to relocate. While he hopes to fill the open positions with people who live in Albuquerque and Carbondale, he said he expects he’ll have to fly in doctors from other states, patching together a schedule with a mix of local and out-of-state providers.
For now, he said, he plans to keep his home base in San Antonio, flying to Illinois and New Mexico as often as he can.
He hasn’t had time to think beyond the next few months, he said.
“Up until the very moment we heard from the court, I had this unrealistic hope that there would be some relief,” he said.
“Then all of a sudden it became very real.”