I’m an Abortion Provider in Texas. This Is What My Life Is Like Now.
On September 1, 2021, the nation’s most restrictive abortion law went into effect: Texas Senate Bill (SB 8) barred abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks—before many people even know they are pregnant. On October 6, a federal judge blocked the enforcement of the controversial new law on a temporary basis. Below, Texas-based physician Ghazaleh Moayedi, MD, speaks about the pain restrictive measures inflict on patients and practitioners across the board.
Once a month, I wake up before dawn to drive hundreds of miles from Texas to Oklahoma, where I’ll spend the day providing abortion services. Along these long stretches of empty roadway, I think about the people I care for: the distances they’re traveling, the hurdles they have to clear before even being able to make the trip. Sometimes, I cry. It doesn’t have to be this way.
My home state of Texas has long served as a place where people come to seek abortion care from other restrictive states. In my time as a physician here, I have routinely cared for folks from Louisiana and Oklahoma. Now, with SB 8, the whole network of abortion providers is in flux. Small states, like Oklahoma, can’t handle the new surge. The result is that more people will simply have to travel farther and farther away, and doctors like me will have to constantly reconsider the way we provide care.
But whether I’m practicing in Texas or Oklahoma, the patients—like many others across the country who live in states hostile to abortion access—have to endure a mandatory waiting period, a forced ultrasound, and consultations riddled with medically inaccurate statements. They have to travel to a clinic that’s not a traditional doctor’s office, walk through protestors, knowing that everyone in the waiting room has endured the same.
It’s a stark comparison to the experiences of those living in states like Hawaii, where I did my fellowship: There, abortion services are more available and the majority of people have health insurance. Most anyone could get their abortion care in an operating room and choose to be under general anesthesia, yet I saw more people opt for the procedure in a general office, with just ibuprofen and a numbing medication applied to the cervix.
It makes a difference, knowing that you have access to the health care you want and need. For the people I serve now, the experience is just more painful—the perceived physical pain intensified by the shame and stigma they’re made to feel as a result of medically unnecessary abortion restrictions. It is, in a word, gut-wrenching.
Doctors like me have to constantly reconsider the way we provide care.
And the influx of restrictive laws introduced and passed at the state level this year have only made it worse: Misinformation peddled by politicians, anti-abortion proponents, and even some physicians has hit a fever pitch too. I saw it last week, with my own eyes, in the lies I heard when I flew to Washington, D.C. to testify at the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s hearing on the ongoing threat to abortion access. From the safety of abortion care to who seeks abortion care to how people feel before, during, and after their abortion care to why people obtain abortions later in pregnancy: Every lie told is meant to cause additional harm to the patients. To their families. To their communities. To me.
Physicians lying and acting unethically is very much at the heart of why I decided to become a doctor in the first place: I wanted to combat that ideology and framework, to completely tear it down. And then there’s the racism, which I’ve experienced firsthand. The bigotry I faced in medical school and also growing up in Texas, in a family of immigrants, many of them undocumented or formerly undocumented. People hated me just because my name is Ghazaleh Moayedi. Kids made fun of me because I brought ghormeh sabzi, a traditional Iranian food, to school for lunch. I was bullied for having curly hair, for simply existing.
It’s hard to rest, to fill my cup. In ob-gyn residency, we’re told we cannot work more than 80 hours a week—but that means our baseline for a “normal work week” is untenable, and it’s hard to just stop advocating. My 6-year-old has seen me cry when yet another anti-abortion law goes into effect. They know that the laws make it difficult—if not impossible—to do my job. My husband has always been supportive of my profession, so our conversations around my work involve safety, potential imprisonment, and the very real possibility of financial consequences. Although SB 8, which prohibits abortion around six weeks in Texas, has been temporarily blocked, if it is reinstated, I could be sued into oblivion. But even in the face of financial ruin, we’re aligned: It’s not worth bowing down to that fear.
Soon, I’ll be preparing for another solo drive to Oklahoma. The people I’ll care for will surely be on my mind: all of us, rushing toward reproductive freedom. Not alone but together—a comforting thought. I still have hope that, someday, things will be better.
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