Women protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. Dozens of people protested the abortion restriction law that went into effect Wednesday. Credit: Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman via AP

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Tanja Hollander is a patient advocate at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

When I learned about the Texas abortion law, I couldn’t help but think about my own abortion and what my experience might have been if I called Dallas home instead of Auburn.

I found out I was pregnant shortly after my 44th birthday. I’d spent most of my adult life trying to avoid pregnancy and was shocked to find out I was pregnant. A week after my missed period, I took a home pregnancy test. I called my doctor to schedule an official pregnancy test and medication abortion. They told me that I could schedule the test, but not “the other thing.” I hung up and called Planned Parenthood in Portland (a 45-minute drive from my home), but the first available appointment was three weeks away, which would be close to the 10-week recommended limit for a medication abortion.

The earliest available appointment I could find was in four days in Concord, New Hampshire — across state lines and a four-hour round trip.

Because I couldn’t get care at home, my insurance wouldn’t cover my $475 procedure. I had an available balance on a credit card of $550, which I used to pay for it.

I was extremely lucky to have a community and support system that did not question my decision. I live in a state that is fairly liberal and yet it was still difficult for me to get the care I needed in a timely manner.

I was anxious at the thought of walking through a crowd of protestors to get to the health center. It’s unimaginable to think about what people face in Texas — not only vigilantes’ intimidation and scare tactics blocking their entrance to care, but also the “sue thy neighbor” provision encouraging anti-abortion activists, distant relatives, abusive partners, or even a stranger to sue anyone suspected of providing an abortion or helping someone get an abortion. If the suit results in a guilty verdict, the person suing collects at least $10,000.

No matter our own personal views about abortion, many of us will offer support to a loved one who asks for our help. My sister came with me to my first appointment in Maine. My boyfriend met me in Concord. For simply being there for me, for showing up with kindness and support, they could be targeted with a lawsuit.

Abortion is essentially illegal in Texas now. Even if a Texan realized they were pregnant before six weeks, they would still have to make two different appointments — probably traveling some distance to do so since 96 percent of Texas counties don’t have an abortion provider — and endure a forced 24-hour delay for no medical reason. All before the arbitrary six-week mark.

I found out I was pregnant at seven weeks, which would have placed me past the limits in Texas. That’s not uncommon. Six weeks means six weeks since the start of your last period. If you have irregular periods, you’re unlikely to know you’re pregnant until you are past that six-week limit.

A small minority of people will be able to travel out of state for care, but Black and brown people, people struggling financially, living in rural areas, and young people already facing barriers to care will be disproportionately harmed by this ban.

The Texas law is a full-scale assault on patients, their health care providers, and their support systems. It’s inhumane. Nonbinary people need abortion care. Transmen need abortion care. Women need abortion care — one in four women will have an abortion. This means all of us know somebody or love somebody who has had an abortion or will need one.

Congress needs to act. Passing the Women’s Health Protection Act to protect access to safe legal abortion for everyone is a good start.

It would guarantee that all people, regardless of where we live, have the same protected rights to make decisions about pregnancy, our lives, and future.