In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, people in states around the country are now finding themselves forced to travel long distances to access legal abortion. But in Far West Texas, that’s long been the reality. In a special series, three Big Bend residents share their stories of traveling to get an abortion over the last 15 years.
By Annie Rosenthal and Mitch Borden, illustrations by Dio Cramer
Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade late last month, the landscape of abortion access in the U.S. has shifted dramatically. As more and more states restrict the procedure, people in states around the country now find themselves forced to travel long distances to access legal abortion.
But out here in Far West Texas, that’s been the reality for years. Until recently, the closest abortion clinic to the Big Bend was in El Paso. Now that Texas has banned nearly all abortions, it’s just a few miles further west, over the state border in New Mexico.
This week, as the challenges in our region become a model for much of the country, we’re sharing the stories of people who can speak to what that distance looks and feels like. Below, three West Texans — JD, Isabel, and Sara — tell us in their own words about their journeys to access abortion 12 years ago, six years ago, and this past year.
A note: To address privacy and safety concerns, Isabel and Sara are pseudonyms.
JD DiFabbio was living in Marfa in 2010 when she found out she was pregnant. She had the resources to feel comfortable raising a child: a stable job, a long-term partner, her own house. But she’d always known she didn’t want kids.
So JD made the trip to the closest abortion clinic, which was three hours away in El Paso. Twelve years later, she says she still thinks about it — with both grief and the certainty that it was the right decision for her.
Moving to Marathon in 2016, Isabel saw West Texas as a beautiful paradise, the lack of cell service a charming feature of small-town life. But when the cost of travel kept her from a follow-up appointment after her abortion, she found herself in a rare medical emergency that demonstrated the high stakes of living in a remote community.
More than a year before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Texas passed SB8, then the most restrictive abortion law in the country, which banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. That meant that by the time Sara took a pregnancy test in Far West Texas last winter, the closest clinic that could provide an abortion was four hours away, in New Mexico.
The journey Sara took to get that care offers a glimpse into the future of abortion access in much of the country. As New Mexico becomes the only state bordering Texas that hasn’t restricted abortion, residents of the Big Bend region suddenly find ourselves among the closest to care in the state.
“So Far From Care” was reported by Annie Rosenthal, who produced it with Mitch Borden. It was edited by Carlos Morales, and illustrated by Dio Cramer.
This series is part of an ongoing Marfa Public Radio project about access to reproductive care in Far West Texas. If you have a story you’d like to share — about abortion, obstetrics, fertility, childcare, or anything else reproduction-related — we’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch here.