Alabama's abortion clinic was ringing off-the-hook. Callers wanted to know if abortion is legal. If so, how long?
The world was abuzz with a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion.
Dalton Johnson, the owner of the clinic, was struck Monday night by the bluntness in the language. It would effectively end the constitutional right of an abortion and close clinics in approximately half of American states including his.
Johnson stated Tuesday that he was still shocked as he tried to comfort his staff and patients. He said that he would continue to provide abortions in Alabama as long as it's legal.
Both sides of the abortion debate have been waiting for the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. Many said that the draft opinion was still stunning and forced them to face the reality they will soon be entering.
"I can't help but cry," declared a beaming Mississippi state Rep. Becky Currie who sponsored the 2018 law which is the basis of the Supreme Court case. "I don't know if I have the words right now to express my feelings, but God has been working on this bill from the beginning."
Politico published a leaked draft late Monday night. It is a 98-page opinion on Dobbs. Jackson Women's Health Organization. This case challenged the constitutionality and legality of the Mississippi bill banning abortion after 15 weeks. If the decision is as it stands, it will also overturn Planned Parenthood, a 1992 decision which allowed states to limit abortion services.
The draft opinion states that "Roe was egregiously incorrect from the beginning." Justice Samuel Alito signed it, one of the court's conservative 6-3 majority. Politico reports that four other justices -- Clarence Thomas (Neil Gorsuch), Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh -- also agreed to the opinion.
Although the draft opinion was completed in February, the court could alter the language before issuing its final ruling. It would allow states to decide whether abortion is legal or not. About half of the states, mostly in the South and Midwest will likely ban abortion quickly.
These abortion clinics opened Tuesday morning. They are still accepting patients, but they don't know what the future holds.
As they do every day, the daily rituals continued as usual: protestors yelled at people who walked inside, while abortion opponents prayed. Clinic escorts attempted to protect patients and hustle them into the clinic doors.
Barbara Beavers stood in front of the Jackson clinic, Mississippi on Tuesday and gently tried to persuade people not to go inside. "Have mercy upon our unborn children. We're destroying our future, killing our babies."
The news caused panic in clinics and abortion providers across America raced to inform their patients that clinics were still open.
Tammi Kromenaker of Fargo, North Dakota, said that she felt immediately sick. "And 20 million thoughts began going through my mind about what we can do. What do my staff need? What are the needs of our patients?
On their website, she posted the following notice: "If your appointment at Red River Women's Clinic is made, your appointment will be safe."
Katie Quinonez, a Charleston resident, had hardly slept the night before and was having nightmares about her Supreme Court case. Fearful that her patients might misunderstand the news, Quinonez ran to the clinic Tuesday morning. They shared on social media that abortion is legal and that the clinic is open. However, they are not sure how long.
She was waiting for the news.
Quinonez stated that there was still a visceral reaction and a very debilitating feeling. This is a red alert time. This is more than a red alert moment. The fire alarm is sounding.
Johnson's Huntsville clinic received calls from women asking if they could still have an abortion. Johnson stated that his first call of morning came from a woman who wanted to cancel her Friday abortion and instead come in on Tuesday.
Johnson asked the staff to meet and focus on those who are still seeking abortions. He explained to them that the opinion was a draft and warned that it wasn’t the final decision.
Anti-abortion activists were skeptical about the draft becoming reality. They focused instead on the fact it was leaked to the media and whether this implied political posturing.
Dennis Westover, 72, a retired electrical engineer and regular protestor outside Charleston's clinic, West Virginia, said, "I'm hopeful." He was suspicious that it had been leaked as ammunition during the country's culture wars.
He said, "When our Supreme Court stuff begins to leak, it's outrageous." "Either one side did it to create some sort of stink," he said.
Angela Minter, a Louisville protester, said that she prayed for the draft opinion to be finalized.
Minter stated, "I'm excited right now." "I believe it's a sign of what's coming."
Minter believes that God answered her prayers. She has been coming to the clinic every morning since 2004. The protesters shouted outside, and patients tried to avoid her. One man shouted, "Don't kill your baby!" at a young girl. She was assisted into the building by clinic escorts wearing orange vests.
After the legislature had banned abortions, the Louisville clinic was shut down for a week until a court intervened. It will likely close again if Roe is repealed.
Meg Stern, who manages the Kentucky Health Justice Network (and escorts patients to the clinic), said that she anticipates a day without any abortion clinics in Kentucky. Access to abortion will no longer be a matter of privilege. People who have the financial means to travel can now end their pregnancies.
It's the family with one car and struggling to make ends meets. They could be in the city or in rural areas of the state. She said that if they don’t have the money to pay for travel, lodging, gas money and food money or babysitters, they will be unable to work. Do you have the car to make it possible?
The nation has seen this for months. After six weeks of September, Texas had banned abortion. According to Dr. Iman Alsaden (medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains), there was a 2500% increase in patients at Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the region.
Some Texans arrived in Jackson, Mississippi. Derenda Hancock is an escortee.
We're only seeing the results of people who have the means to travel. This makes it difficult to think about all those people who are left behind and can't afford the trip. She wondered, "How are they doing?" "They will be made to be mothers."
Some groups work to get around the law as best they can. These include mobile abortion units, travel assistance fundraising, and mail-order medication. One online woman's health provider reported Tuesday's significant rise in emergency contraception requests. New York, California, and Illinois, all Democratic-leaning states, are scrambling to pass laws that protect abortion access for both their residents and those from outside the state.
Kromenaker plans to open a clinic in Minnesota if abortion is banned in North Dakota. She hopes that the draft will inspire people to act immediately.
She texted her husband Tuesday, "We have to move forward very rapidly now," she wrote. "The urgency is there."