Stigma, Empathy, and TRAP Laws: Later Abortion Care and Reproductive Health

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On Friday, mere hours before Judge Yeakel issued the ruling finding the Ambulatory Surgical Center provision in House Bill 2 unconstitutional, The National Network of Abortion Funds, the National Abortion Federation, The Reproductive Health Technologies Project,  the Sea Change Program, and Backline held a tweet chat about later abortion care moderated by Steph Herold, Sea Change’s Deputy Director.

Later abortion care is not usually a part of reproductive justice talking points, especially not in the political arena. The twenty week ban on abortion procedures in the omnibus abortion bill is arguably the least-contested provision in House Bill 2. For Texans seeking abortion procedures later in their pregnancies, this means that stigma prevents them from accessing legal healthcare in their own state.

The organizations asked people to submit questions about later term abortion care as a part of an effort to support and bring attention to PBS’ upcoming airing of After Tiller, a documentary that looks at the murder of Doctor Tiller in 2009 and the reality of those seeking and providing later abortion services in this country.

In Texas, the question of later abortion care is completely off the table, thanks to the twenty-week abortion ban at the heart of the omnibus abortion bill. Even high profile Democrats who identify and vote as pro-choice legislators fall in to the group that supports such bans. There seems to be a hard line in the current conversation about abortion; a defining moment between abortions that are acceptable and should be accessible, and the ones we simply can’t abide. And right now, this dividing line is law.


There are many reasons why someone would seek a later term abortion. After Tiller delves into them through interviews with those providing later abortion services and the people in their waiting rooms. As many have pointed out in opposition to House Bill 2, some people do not discover fetal anomalies and medical problems with their pregnancies until after twenty weeks. For them, they have no option but to travel outside of the state if they intend to end their pregnancies. But those aren’t the only people later abortion services are for.

Those who most vocally oppose later abortion services are, generally, also those who support bills like House Bill 2. Their goal is to eliminate abortion, and they aim to achieve this by making the procedure ever harder to access. Interestingly, the laws they support and champion through state legislatures are the very sources of some people’s need for later abortion services.

If you are a single parent, or even in a two-parent household, and your job is insecure or minimum wage, it can be nearly impossible to save up the amount of money you will need to be able to have an abortion. It isn’t only about the cost of the procedure, which is around $500 on the low end, it is about the cost of travel, time off from work, and childcare. Getting everything in place for two separate doctors appointments which may not even be available in your home town takes time. For some, this pushes them past the “acceptable” deadline for choice.


After Doctor Tiller was shot at his church in 2009, there were only four doctors providing later abortion services in the entire country. The documentary also follows these providers through their struggle to provide access to medical care for those who need it, while facing down threats of violence and death on a daily basis. For those who choose to provide later abortion care, their lives are quite literally on the line.

The stigma that makes the twenty-week abortion ban the most acceptable form of abortion restriction is the same stigma that pushes anti-choice radicals to acts of violence against these providers and their facilities on a frighteningly regular basis. And this is the stigma that we most need to face. If we are ever truly going to move towards a future where all Texans have access to the medical services integral to reproductive justice, later abortion care must be a part of it.

See the trailer for After Tiller below, and catch it on PBS this Monday, September 1st.


About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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