‘I Had to Drive 600 Miles for My $800 Abortion’

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USA, Texas, Country road passing through Davis Mountains

‘My experience is the epitome of undue burden’

I was born almost two decades after Roe v. Wade recognized the right to legal abortion in America. I always thought that meant my right to have an abortion was guaranteed, and no one could interfere with the decisions I made about my own body. Maybe that’s still true in the abstract, but in real-world places like Lubbock, Texas, nothing could be further from the truth.

I learned this the hard way two years ago, in the fall of 2014. I was working my way through college as a waitress when I learned I was pregnant. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother, and while my decision to have an abortion wasn’t an easy one, I knew it was the right choice for me.

The problem is that I was living in Texas, a state openly hostile to abortion rights. That year an anti-choice law known as HB2 went into effect and forced abortion clinics all over the state to shut down. The law singles out abortion providers with excessive regulations – including an admitting privileges requirement and a rule that abortion clinics must meet certain building specifications to essentially become “mini hospitals” (also known as ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs) – which the medical community has called out as totally unnecessary and actually dangerous to women. In fact, both surgical and medical abortion have been shown to be incredibly safe. Common procedures such as liposuction or colonscopies carry higher complications.

But that didn’t matter, because HB2 is pure politics. Lawmakers couldn’t ban abortion outright, so they decided the next best thing is to set up roadblocks to stop women from accessing abortion—all while pretending they’re on a mission to somehow improve women’s health.

The law has done exactly what they wanted it to. Four years ago, there were more than 40 abortion clinics in Texas. HB2 has already forced more than half of those clinics to close. If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t strike down the worst parts of the law in a case the justices are currently considering and will soon decide,Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, then Texas will be left with as few as 10 abortion clinics to serve all Texas women. All 5.4 million of us of reproductive age.

As a result of HB2, the clinic in Lubbock closed. I was left choosing between bad and worse: Drive 600 miles west, round-trip to Albuquerque, or 600 miles east, round-trip to Dallas. The expense of travel, hotels and foregoing work shifts added hundreds of dollars onto the cost of a procedure. Either way, I was faced with a five-hour drive just to get the procedure. Even then, the remaining clinics were so overwhelmed by the closures that there were no guarantees I’d even be able to see a doctor in Dallas, where women have been forced to wait as long as 20 days just to get an initial appointment. I ended up driving to New Mexico.

I was fortunate that I could scrape together the nearly $800 it took for me – but just barely. If I’d had a little less money, or if I didn’t have reliable transportation or a job that let me take several days off in a row, my right to make decisions about my body would have remained nothing but an abstract concept.

What’s so perverse about a law that pushes access to abortion out of reach by making it more expensive and logistically difficult is that it is essentially custom-built to target poor women. That has a compounding effect, preventing women from pursuing education and from working their way up from poverty. When you take away a woman’s choice, you don’t just take away her autonomy and her dignity. You take away her opportunity as well.

Over the next few months, I tried to learn as much as I could about how things got so bad in Texas. I knew lawmakers had passed a major anti-abortion bill in 2013. I remembered being moved and inspired by Wendy Davis’s filibuster. But I didn’t understand the extent of the harm that law would cause.

I suspect that’s because the politicians behind HB2 were dealing in abstractions, because their real goal was attacking the very right to choose. So they talked vaguely about health and safety, and claimed their law would help women without offering anything concrete to back it up. And it all sounded reasonable enough if you didn’t look too closely or consider the tangible impact on actual people – women like me, left to drive hundreds of miles and forced to struggle financially to make decisions protected by the Constitution.

And that damage is more widespread than people might realize. There were 1.1 million abortions performed in 2010, according to a recent study by the CDC. And the more open I’ve been about my experience with friends, family and coworkers, the more I’ve realized that I am not alone. I’ve heard from other people in my life who have been faced with an unintended pregnancy and decided to have an abortion.

My abortion was a deeply personal decision, but I am speaking out because versions of my story have played out all across Texas over the last three years. The circumstances are different, but the burdens are the same. I’m telling my story because I want the Texas legislature to know who I am: I am one of their constituents, and I have been harmed by a law they insist was supposed to help me.

I want them to know that the choice they want to take away does not exist as some hypothetical ideal, but belongs to a human being who is every bit as real as they are.

Kathryn Holburn is a bartender living in Dallas, Texas.

  • JJ

    Your head is so incredibly far up your ass you need a snorkel to breathe.

    • BJ

      Delete your account.

    • Beatrix S.L

      You would know, JJ.

    • beedogs

      Too bad your parents didn’t abort, JJ. Worthless scum.

  • FeatheredFiend

    This is ridiculous. My experience was difficult but not as extreme. Luckily abortions were covered by applehealth (the in-state care program) but the facility in my neighborhood was still so booked up that they would have had to schedule me a month out. I was experiencing morning sickness and suicidal thoughts so that wasn’t an option. I ended up taking two buses at 5 in the morning to get to an 8 AM appointment in the next town–the last appointment available for two weeks at that facility! And this was in the left leaning state of Washington. Apparently they’re thinking of closing clinics here due sot ‘lack of demand’…seems ridiculous from my point of view.

  • KP19

    I hate to break it to you, but If you aren’t able to handle the (in your case, consequences) of having sex you probably shouldn’t be partaking in it.

    • Beatrix S.L

      She was able to handle it. It is simply ridiculous she had to go through so much bureaucratic BS to do so.

    • Ben Kalziqi

      So if you get hit by a car, you’re going to refuse treatment because you should have been able to handle the consequences of driving?

      Go fuck yourself.

      • Jerry Zucker

        Are you comparing sex (or pregnancy) with a car accident?

        Go throw yourself in a car.

      • Sicks5

        Don’t have to have sex to get to work dumbass. Not even close to similar in any way.

        • Ben Kalziqi

          What’s the relevance of that? The OP stated that this was about consequences, not about getting to work.

          • Sicks5

            What’s the relevance of getting hit by a car then? It’s a garbage comparison.

          • Ben Kalziqi

            Let me explain it for you since apparently you find it very difficult to understand:

            KP19 said that pregnancy is a consequence of sex, so it’s the writer’s fault that she wasn’t able to “handle it” (although she handled it just fine, evidently).

            Now, you see–getting pregnant isn’t the sole reason to have sex, but sometimes it happens even though you might not want it to. It’s a possibility.

            Similarly (that means “it’s like the other thing”), people drive cars for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with getting into an accident. But sometimes, car crashes happen even if you don’t want them to. It’s a possibility.

            Now, if you’re not allowed to get an abortion in the case of an accident having to do with sex because pregnancy is a natural consequence of having sex, you shouldn’t be able to seek medical help after a car accident because getting into a car accident is a natural consequence of driving a car. If you weren’t prepared to be in an accident (or get pregnant) and just let it happen (keep the pregnancy) without seeking medical help (getting an abortion for a pregnancy you don’t want), then you shouldn’t have driven a car (had sex).

            Did I explain it real good for you?

            (Also: nice profile picture, you lunatic.)

          • Hazmat13

            No matter how you spin it, it’s still a moronic comparison. Apples and oranges. Tossing the insults in just proves how weak your arguments are.

          • Ben Kalziqi

            1. Good point–oh wait, you don’t have a point.

            2. Nice job calling what I said “moronic spin”, offering no reasoning, and then saying that insults indicate how weak my argument is.

          • Hazmat13

            There’s no reason to breakdown your analogy because it has no basis in reality to begin with. Again, you are comparing apples and oranges.

            You seem very wound up. You made a stupid comparison, got called out on it, and then went on some diatribe trying to defend it rather than simply acknowledging the false logic and moving on. So you are either angry people don’t agree with you and like to argue for the sake of argument, or you are incapable of admitting when you’re wrong and feel the need to defend your stance no matter if it’s logical or not.

            Move along son, you lost this time.

    • Yeah Right

      Lmfao what a joke

    • Josh Combs

      My thoughts exactly! Well I’m not ready to have a child, might as well kill it. ?

    • Melodie Simmons

      I hate to break it to you, but if you are a man – you should shut your pie hole when it comes to the reproductive rights of women. And if you are a woman… shame shame shame on you.

      • Hazmat13

        I love when feminists use the term “reproductive rights” when it comes to abortion. Having sex is a ‘reproductive right’. Getting pregnant is a ‘reproductive right’… Having an abortion is not reproduction, it’s in fact the opposite of reproduction.

        • Casey

          Reproductive right is to choose when and if to reproduce. So yes, abortion is a reproductive right…it is a person choosing not to reproduce at that given time.

          • Anonymous Login

            Correct, your right is to have sex or not have sex, aka reproduction or no reproduction.

          • Casey

            Abortion is also a method of not reproducing. It is entailed in the reproductive rights, just as an alternative method to abstinence.

    • david b

      Probably she should get some effective birth control, which the religious conservatives of her state aren’t fond of, or insist the guy she’s with use a condom, which the religious conservatives of her state aren’t fond of. The problem is that none of these things are 100% effective which means that women can still have unintended pregnancies even after taking the right precautions, so there’s still an appropriate place for properly conducted abortion services. Of course, women could just, en masse, start refusing to have sex and, as we all know, this is something the religious conservatives, the men anyway, aren’t fond of since they’ve so often been caught screwing around.

    • Stoffers

      Hate to break it to you, there is no God, if it’s not viable outside the womb, it’s not really alive, just a parasite.

      • DataMatters

        My wife had two miscarriages, one of which required a DNC to remove. It forever changed my opinion on the matter of abortion. Should it be legal? Yes. Should people abort healthy babies so wantonly? Absolutely not! It’s completely disgusting how little respect there is for human life (or any life, for that matter). And while I understand that people do make mistakes, the psychological damage of having an abortion is not something to overlook. Be responsible.

        • Casey

          Psychological effects of having an abortion are largely overrated, although they can be devastating to certain individuals.

          I agree with you about the lack of respect for life part. It is shameful how many people use abortion as a birth control method as opposed to actually using birth control. Accidental pregnancy is one thing. “Accidental pregnancy” because you used no protection is another.

        • Stoffers

          Yea, don’t get raped and if you do luckily the body has it’s way of shutting that thing down.

    • ten16

      A pregnancy isn’t a consequence of sex, what an idiot.

    • beedogs

      More right-wing gutter trash. End your life, KP.

  • randomguy01

    Who was the father? Did he force you, or did he want to keep it?

    • Joshua Honeycutt

      Once you donate sperm to a lady she can do what she wants with it.

      • randomguy01

        She aborted donated sperm?

        See part of the problem is control. If she decides to keep it, she can also easily come after the man for money, unless it’s donated from a sperm bank…

        If the man wanted his child to not die he should have equal say, if he wanted it do die, she should have equal say.

        I understand now why quietly there seems to be so many looking to grow babies in test tubes or without the mother. They simply have too much control.

        • Joshua Honeycutt

          How does an aborted baby affect the man’s future? I’ll take bodily autonomy over worrying about some guys guilt over a baby he didn’t have the forethought to discuss with his sex partner.

          • randomguy01

            I’ve seen so many different cases on both sides. There is many cases where the father wanted the son, that the mother once wanted but then decides to back out after the fact.

            The problem with your thinking is why modern society is turning into an Idiocracy. If men have zero control on the decision, then why partake in it? It’s why many men are now reproducing with women from 3rd world countries and why marriage and birthrates in “1st World” countries are on the decline.

            In 50 years I wouldn’t be surprised if women lost all the freedoms they wanted all because the countries that supported freedoms were simply out-bred.

          • Melodie Simmons

            Your argument doesn’t even make sense. Men don’t even worry about getting someone pregnant, ever. It’s not on their radar. To say it is, would be a lie. If they were worried, they would use protection. It is NONE of your business what any woman chooses to do with her body. Do I tell you you should get a vasectomy? No. Why? Because it’s none of my business. Most men don’t even reply to texts or phone calls after the “I’m pregnant” discussion happens. So please do not stand on your soapbox talking about men’s rights – women are tired of hearing about how men want more rights.

          • randomguy01

            You think men aren’t tired? Haven’t heard of the cases where a man will get a vasectomy and not tell the woman? Men don’t worry about getting someone pregnant or it’s a LIE? Lmao, seems I triggered a feminist.

            Men are tired of hearing of modern 1st world women complaining about more rights when they have far more then men.

            If men can’t choose whether or not to keep the baby, if the man doesn’t want the baby then he should not be forced into any type of pay. If he does want the baby but the women makes the choice for him to not have it she already holds an extreme amount of power over him.

            My argument only doesn’t make sense to you because you want complete control, men will NEVER allow this.

          • Sicks5

            Who the hell are you having sex with to say men don’t worry ever? Stop letting trash put their dicks in you.

          • Raiden

            You’re painting with a pretty broad brush there. Sounds like you’ve got an axe to grind.

          • DataMatters

            That is already happening right now. Barring some miracle, the west is finished.

        • Casey

          Reproductive rights can never be perfectly even between the two genders because biologically, it’s not even. The man and women both provide a gamete for the baby…that part is even, but it is the women that further goes on to actually house the fetus until delivery.

          Since the fetus is located in the woman’s body, she by default has more say.

          Men retain control over their sperm. No one should be able to steal a man’s sperm without his permission. But anything to do with the actual fetus has to be determined by the wishes of the woman the fetus is present in, since there’s no way to give someone else rights without taking her rights over her body.

          • randomguy01

            You post seems rather logical (rather than emotional) for this thread lol.

            I honestly don’t care if women want to kill their babies, my main problem (which is only a part of this whole topic) is that that man has no way of choosing to keep a son/daughter if the woman decides not to. Or if the man can’t afford to pay for a child and the woman keeps it so that she can collect money that is also a problem.

            I understand woman want to be in control of what they do with their bodies, the thing everyone keeps trying to ignore or overlook is that she is in control of a potential new person which is also part of someone else.

            I guess my Sci-fi dream as of now, is that one day, we can remove the baby from the mothers and allow them to grow in “test tubes” so no one holds complete control this whole thing.

      • Raiden

        Gross oversimplification. If it were simply sperm donation, then there would be no such thing as paternity suits seeking child support.

  • Craig Johnston

    It would be clearer to say that you had to drive 300 miles to get an abortion; everyone understands that you have to come back.Of course, “I Had to Drive 300 Miles…” doesn’t sound as impressive, I guess. And people might wonder why you needed motel rooms for ten hours of driving and a four-hour procedure, check-in to recovery.
    I have a lot of sympathy for women like you who had to make such a difficult decsion, but playing up the inconvenience actually makes your story easier to dismiss.

    • siren5

      Unless you’ve had an abortion, I do not believe you are qualified to talk about the “inconveniences” she might have experienced.

      • Sicks5

        O in that case… unless you have murdered someone, you shouldn’t talk about murder. So yea…. only those who have had abortions and regular murderers too.

      • Craig Johnston

        My wife had a number of D&Es and D&Cs on her way to a successful pregnancy, so I am familiar with the details, but even if I weren’t I could intelligently comment on the inconveniences associated with a round trip to a city 300 miles away.

    • Ben Kalziqi

      Playing up? Did she or did she not drive 600 miles?

      • Craig Johnston

        In English, we normally say things a certain way. What she says might be technically true, but it is said in an unusual way which makes it sound larger.

      • Hazmat13

        Saying she drove ‘600 miles’ is in fact a deception. When talking about distance to a location it’s common to list the one-way distance. In this case that would be 300 miles. They made the decision to say ‘600 miles’ in the title because it make it look like it was even harder to accomplish. Yes she drove 600 total miles, but it’s worded in a way to make it look as if that was the drive to the location of the abortion clinic. In reality she drove 300 miles for the abortion, then drove 300 miles back home…

    • Cocoa

      I dunno. Even your toned down version still sounds horribly inconvenient to me.

      • Craig Johnston

        Exactly. She didn’t need to play it up. I’m not saying she wasn’t inconvenienced; I’m saying that by playing it up she makes it easier to dismiss.

    • Casey

      You’re typically not allowed to drive for 12 hours after being injected with a sedative or anesthesia.

      She probably had to stay overnight, that’s assuming that as soon as she got there and was seen by a doctor, that he immediately performed on her as opposed to scheduling her procedure the next day.

  • Casey

    The only thing I could feel sympathy towards this is the fact that you had to drive 600 miles to get an abortion. That is obviously ridiculous and is obviously an attempt to make abortion inaccessible.

    But as for the cost of the procedure, that’s not due to some heinous attempt to make abortion inaccessible to women, it’s due to the overall health care costs and medical procedure costs in the US.

    I completely understand that accidents happen even when you use protection. But I do also feel that if you cannot afford a potential abortion procedure, then don’t have sex?

    So many people feel entitled to have sex and that it’s society’s job to deal with the consequences of it. It’s not. This goes for both women complaining about the cost of seeing a doctor for an abortion but also men complaining about child support. If you can’t afford it then don’t risk it. Nobody did this to you…not lawmakers, not society, not the chick. Only yourself.

    The world would be a much more functioning place if people would stop being so impulsive.