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They tried and failed to get an abortion. Texas family grapples with what it'll mean

Anna drove 40 minutes from her home to pick up free diapers from Tere Haring at Allied Women's Center in San Antonio. Anna, who is pregnant with her seventh child, says she did consider abortion: "All I could think about — I need an abortion because there's no way I can deal with everything going on right now and taking care of all the boys by myself and having another baby."
Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
Anna drove 40 minutes from her home to pick up free diapers from Tere Haring at Allied Women's Center in San Antonio. Anna, who is pregnant with her seventh child, says she did consider abortion: "All I could think about — I need an abortion because there's no way I can deal with everything going on right now and taking care of all the boys by myself and having another baby."

"Have this baby, and I will help you."

For decades, Tere Haring has been making this promise to the pregnant women of San Antonio. She runs a crisis pregnancy center called Allied Women's Center out of a small house a few miles from the city's downtown. Women often come here for free pregnancy tests. When those tests come up positive, Haring and her volunteer staff try to dissuade them from pursuing abortion.

"I feel like [if] you talked a woman out of an abortion, you owe her more," Haring says.

To these women and all the others who walk in her door, Haring hands out things like formula, food, baby clothes and cash. Someone needs a high chair? She finds one. Coming up short on rent or an electric bill? She writes a check.

Haring says her clients' needs have gone up in the past year. In one recent month, she gave out three times as much money as she did the year before.

Much of Texas is least 300 miles away from the closest abortion provider — and the state has felt acutely the impact of the Supreme Court's decision last June to end the right to an abortion. Some experts estimate there have been at least 25,000 fewer procedures across the state since that law changed.

For at least one woman who wanted but was unable to have an abortion this year, Haring has been a rare source of help. It's not enough.

More pregnancies means more people in need

Haring's phone is always ringing. Her services include talking women through all sorts of problems. "Go to the women's shelter," Haring advises one woman over the phone a recent day. The woman is in an abusive relationship. She has four kids. "Be brave," Haring tells her.

The woman says she'll be by for diapers later.

She talks to another woman who has a leak in her roof. "So is the water leaking from the rain?" Haring asks. No, says the woman, the air conditioner. Try some Teflon tape, she advises. "If that doesn't work, call me back."

A woman came to Allied Women's Health to pick up diapers for her three children.
/ Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
/
Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
A woman came to Allied Women's Health to pick up diapers for her three children.

The woman on the other end of that call, Anna, has been a regular recipient of help in the last few months. She and her husband, Tony, did not want to use their full names for this story; they worry about the impact it could have on their family. They met Haring in the midst of a crisis several months ago, when they tried — and failed — to terminate a pregnancy.

Anna and Tony live 40 minutes outside of San Antonio, in a small town of just a few thousand people. They met in high school in Los Angeles, both second generation immigrants. Six years ago, seduced by the promise of cheaper living and adventure, they packed up their three kids and traded the California big city life for that of the Texas countryside.

"We kind of went with it," Anna says, standing outside the house. "Now we're here."

Things haven't gone as they imagined.

They used their savings to move into a five-bedroom house on a farm. They bought some animals. But with Tony working full time driving a truck, the farm life turned out to be tough.

"You see movies or TV shows about people living in farms and how easy it is," says Tony, gazing out over their now-empty plot of land. "Please."

They made it work for a few years. They'd wanted a big family, and the babies kept coming: six kids, all boys. But then COVID hit, and Tony lost his job. "When it rains, it pours," Anna says. "And it started pouring on us."

Allied Women's Center hands out things like formula, baby clothes and cash to needy clients.
/ Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
/
Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
Allied Women's Center hands out things like formula, baby clothes and cash to needy clients.

Without cash coming in, the couple couldn't maintain things on the farm. Systems started failing. The washing machine is one of many appliances that needs fixing. Piles of laundry overflow baskets on their upstairs landing.

The air conditioner broke. Tony's truck broke, dimming his work prospects even more. The hot water heater broke, leaving them no way to bath the boys. Then last winter, Anna found out she was pregnant again.

"All I could think about," Anna says, "I need an abortion because there's no way I can deal with everything going on right now." The thought of taking care of the boys and having another baby was terrifying to her.

Traveling to another state just wasn't an option

For many Texans, the closest clinic offering abortion access is in Albuquerque, N.M. Getting there from San Antonio is at least eight hours by car. That trip was prohibitively expensive for Anna and Tony.

They reached out to a nonprofit that offers funding for people in this situation, but even with financial help, they couldn't make it work.

Anna was facing "driving by myself, getting the procedure done and driving back home by myself," she says.

Tony is now working whatever odd jobs he can find in order to keep them afloat. The family couldn't afford for him to take even one day off. For Anna, the thought of loading up all the boys and taking them with her just seemed impossible.

Tere Haring, who runs the Allied Women's Center in San Antonio, says she's seen a sharp increase in need for items to help care for babies in the last year since the Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to an abortion.
/ Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
/
Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
Tere Haring, who runs the Allied Women's Center in San Antonio, says she's seen a sharp increase in need for items to help care for babies in the last year since the Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to an abortion.

That's when she got in touch with Tere Haring at the crisis pregnancy center.

"I still struggle with thinking that I'm gonna have another baby in our situation right now," says Anna. "But yeah, she contributed to making it easier for me to accept."

Among other things, Haring's organization bought the family a new water heater and arranged for its installation. But things are falling apart faster than they can get repaired.

"This is where our kids were sleeping," says Tony, pointing to a set of bunk beds in the upstairs bedroom. The air conditioner leak is almost directly over the bunk beds. Without AC, mold blooms across the ceiling in the Texas heat. The entire family has moved into one bedroom downstairs.

"It's just taking steps back," Tony says. "The house represents you — you want it to look nice." He says he's determined to model tenacity for his boys through this difficult time, hoping they might someday draw a lesson from it.

"I know how stress is so bad for the pregnancy," Anna says. "I'm trying not to stress out, but it's very difficult right now."

Pamphlets at the Allied Women's Center, a crisis pregnancy center in San Antonio. Much of Texas is now at least 300 miles away from the closest abortion provider.
/ Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
/
Ilana Panich-Linsman for NPR
Pamphlets at the Allied Women's Center, a crisis pregnancy center in San Antonio. Much of Texas is now at least 300 miles away from the closest abortion provider.

Few places to turn for people forced to carry pregnancies

Cathy Nix is the program director for San Antonio Coalition for Life. The anti-abortion group celebrated the Supreme Court's decision a year ago to overturn Roe v. Wade. Nix says the state of Texas is working to help women with unplanned pregnancies find resources.

"Come on in. The doors are open," Nix says. "We're ready to help you."

She points to the state's Alternatives to Abortion program, which is meant to provide resources and counseling for those who can't or don't get abortions. But whether or how this help will reach women like Anna, she's not sure.

"I mean, I don't have numbers," Nix says. She believes the state should offer "as much help as they possibly can," but concedes that it will never meet 100 percent of the need.

"Poverty will always be there," she says. "Struggle is part of the human condition."

Struggle is something Anna and Tony say they've had enough of. Their baby is due soon. "The light at the end of the tunnel ... I can't see it right now," Anna says. Tony is worried, but he says he's not scared.

"I am," says Anna. "I'm scared right now."

Scared mostly for her children, she says. Sometime around September, she'll have seven.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Katia Riddle