The morning the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, there was a palpable change in the atmosphere at an abortion clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas.
That’s when everything turned upside down.
The doors at the end of the corridor leading to the patient area closed instantly; behind them, the sound of crying could be heard.
The BBC has spent the last three weeks at the Little Rock Family Planning Services clinic, interviewing staff and patients who walk through its doors. Usually we have been greeted with cheerful greetings.
But when the Court’s decision was made, we were asked to leave immediately so they could have time alone to process.
The clinic’s escorts, who had stood day after day in the Arkansas heat escorting patients through a crowd that often laughjoins the outskirts of the medical center to protestr against abortionThey hugged as a group.
“I thought this country would still care about the people. He would still care about the women,” said Karen, the lead escort.
Outside, anti-abortion protesters celebrated but said there was more to change.
“It will be a day of celebration, but we will not fully celebrate it until abortion is eradicated from our land,” Hoyt Plunkett told the BBC.
“You are on notice!” another protester yelled at people who continued to park their cars at the clinic. They had not yet learned of the decision.
“My suggestion is that you turn around and leave this place of sin, this place of inequity, this evil place,” the protester said.
Across the United States, clinics like the one in Little Rock they are closing their doorspresumably for the last time.
Arkansas, along with 12 other US states, have Lor is known as a law “trigger”“ either law trigger which immediately outlawed abortion if Roe v Wade was overturned.
When the Supreme Court issued its decision Friday morning, giving states the authority to restrict abortion, these laws began to take effect.
While some states, like Texas, had written waiting periods into the law, delaying the inevitable, Arkansas had written its trigger law to go into effect as soon as the state attorney general, its leading attorney, certified that the Supreme Court He gave them the power to do it.
Leslie Rutledge, the Republican attorney general of Arkansas, told the BBC that she supported the triggering law and the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I think a lot of us didn’t think that maybe it would ever happen in our lives,” he said.
Abortion is only legal to save the life of the mother; there are no exceptions for rape or incest.
“This is an innocent life we are talking about. And that innocent life begins at conception,” Rutledge said.
“(Just) because it was formed under evil circumstances doesn’t make that innocent child evil.”
Now, women in Arkansas facing an unwanted pregnancy have fewer options.
They can leave the state for an abortion (the nearest clinic in a state that allows abortion is 5 hours away) or they can decide to keep their child.
The state does not have paid family leave and Medicaid, a publicly funded health insurance, only covers low-income mothers. for 60 days after delivery.
Rutledge said the Arkansas government “has always been there to support those mothers” but that they “should always look for more ways to help parents who want to be loving parents and make sure those children are taken care of.”
Little Rock Family Planning staff spent the morning calling patients to cancel appointments and help them book in different states.
Ashli Hunt, a registered nurse, burst into tears this morning and immediately ran out to catch her breath.
“No matter how much we prepare for bad news, when it finally comes it hits hard. Having to call these patients and tell them that Roe v Wade was overturned is heartbreaking,” she said a few hours later, when he had time to process the news.
Ashli has worked at the clinic for 14 years and says she is not only heartbroken for the patients who are losing their right to choose, but also for herself.
“Not only are they taking away women’s choice, but they’re also taking away from me what I feel I should be doing,” she said.
Jenifer Thompson, who first came here as a patient more than a decade ago before becoming a staff member, said the clinic helped save her life.
She says that after having an abortion here and receiving help obtaining contraception, she was so impressed with the care that she started volunteering.
She eventually became a paid staff member and earned her nursing degree.
A battle with alcohol got her fired, but she says “the best boss in the world” gave her a second chance by rehiring her after she began her recovery.
Now she says she is devastated that she will no longer be able to help women like they once helped her.
“I have to tell them I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for them. I’m sorry that your boyfriend hits you every day and rapes you all the time, you’re going to have to find somewhere else to go,” she expresses.
“I mean, I can give them information to try to find help, but it’s heartbreaking, because this place literally saved my life multiple times.”
Later Friday night About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the statehousemostly to condemn the decision of the Supreme Court.
There was one of the escorts from the clinic. “Today we cry. Tomorrow we fight,” he said.
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