Two days after Texas teen Brooke Alexander found out she was pregnant, the most restrictive abortion law in nearly 50 years took effect. The 18-year-old felt the full weight of the Texas Heartbeat Act as she made a life changing decision.
For Brooke it wasn’t so much a question of if she wanted to abort, but rather if she legally could. The new abortion law, banned abortion once an ultrasound can detect cardiac activity.
The Washington Post recounts how on Aug. 28 Brooke slid onto the bathroom floor, with a positive pregnancy test in one hand and her boyfriend’s in the other.
She could always get an abortion, she told him. Then he reminded her of something she vaguely remembered seeing on Twitter: A new law was scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. Brooke had 48 hours.
“They just passed a law today!! What are the f—ing odds?” Brooke recalls texting her dad, as she searched for the nearest abortion clinic.
The abortion clinic in South Texas, had no open slots in the next two days. Brooke was pointed towards clinics in New Mexico, a 13-hour drive from her hometown Corpus Christi or in the meantime, she could get an ultrasound somewhere nearby: If she was under six weeks, they could still see her in South Texas.
Brooke and her mother drove to The Pregnancy Center of the Coastal Bend, an antiabortion organization, where Angie Arnholt, the advocate assigned to Brooke’s case, has been counseling abortion-minded clients at the pregnancy center for a year.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Arnholt, a 61-year-old who wears a gold cross around her neck, felt called to do what she could to help women “make a good decision.”
She began the appointment by opening “A Woman’s Right to Know,” an antiabortion booklet distributed by the state of Texas, flipping to a page titled “Abortion risks.”
Brooke recounted to The Washington Post, how she increasingly felt more alarmed as she listened to Arnhoult’s warning of depression, nausea, cramping, breast cancer and infertility, using words such as: vacuum suction, heavy bleeding and punctured uterus.
According to leading medical organizations, abortion does not increase the risk of mental illness, breast cancer or infertility.
After Arnhoult finished preaching the risks of abortion, she began to perform the ultrasound. Brooke hoped the screen would show a fetus without a heartbeat, and was surprised with twins. And they were 12 weeks along.
“Are you sure?” Brooke said. “Oh, my God, oh, my God,”her mother said as she jumped up and down. “This is a miracle from the Lord. We are having these babies.”
Brooke thought that if she tried hard enough she could make it to New Mexico. Her older brother would probably lend her the money to get there.
But, amidst the chaos of excited chatter from the technician and her mother, Brooke couldn’t help but wonder if abortion was murder, and eventually after staring for a long time at the pulsing yellow line on the ultrasound screen, she heard herself say “yes” when Arnholt asked whether she’s be keeping them.
For many Texans who have needed abortions since September, the Texas Heartbeat Act has been a major inconvenience. They are being forced to drive hundreds of miles, and pay hundreds of dollars for a legal procedure they once could have had at home. And those who can’t afford it, or are faced with a long journey full of hurdles, decided to stay pregnant.
Texas offers a glimpse of what the country would face if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer. Roughly half of the states are expected to dramatically restrict abortion or ban it altogether. Pushing many into a forced parenthood.
Sometimes Brooke imagined her life if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, and if Texas hadn’t banned abortion just days after she decided that she wanted one. She wanted to go to college and had her eyes on a real estate license that would finally get her out of Corpus Christi. She wished for an apartment in Austin and enough money for a trip to Hawaii, where she would swim with dolphins in water so clear she could see her toes
“I can’t just really be free,” she said. “I guess that really sums it up. That’s a big thing that I really miss.”.