‘It is activism … it is frustrating’: CA doctor travels to Oklahoma to provide abortions

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Brian Hardzinski

For Texans who want to end their pregnancies, one option is to travel to a neighboring state. Because of doctor shortages that predate the state’s new abortion ban, physicians from all over the U.S. are traveling to that part of the county to help. 

Rebecca Taub, an OB/GYN from California’s East Bay, has been traveling to Oklahoma City once a month to work at a clinic there, where she sees dozens of patients a day who need abortions. Some of them are traveling north from Texas, which outlaws the procedure at around six weeks of pregnancy. 

Taub says the clinic typically receives at least 30 patients daily, and call volumes have at least doubled. She says she’s trying to see if she can go to Oklahoma City more frequently. 

“We've seen such an increase in the number of people who need this care coming from Texas, certainly. And then of course, having the influx of patients from Texas also means that then people from Oklahoma or New Mexico or Louisiana and these other neighboring states, their access to care is also impacted,” she tells KCRW. “They can't get appointments and can't get the care that they need because of people moving and having to travel from other states to get care.”

Taub says she doesn’t ask her patients why they’re getting abortions, but some voluntarily share that they’ve gotten out of abusive relationships or are experiencing financial distress. 

“Even just getting to the clinic can be extremely difficult for them. But people need abortions for all kinds of reasons. And I trust that if someone has gone through the effort to make the appointment, often traveled considerable distances to be able to make it to my exam room, cross through the protesters at the entrance and make it in, then I know that they've thought through that decision that they need to be there. And that's all the information that I need.” 

Taub adds that she is concerned about someone suing her for providing an abortion, but notes that she is not a physician licensed in Texas. That adds confusion over whether she could be prosecuted under that state’s law. She says even sending a Texan patient home with a prescription is confusing.

“There are a lot of questions. … Can they fill that prescription in Texas? Would that pharmacist be able to be prosecuted under this law for assisting in an abortion, even though the medications that I'm giving them are not abortion medications?” 

Since the passage of the abortion ban, Taub says there’s been a sense of urgency among her colleagues. Some are interested in traveling to provide care for those who need it.  

“For me, this is political. It is activism. For me, it is frustrating. I was just talking with a colleague today about how abortion is a part of medical care. And I wish that we could provide this care and just have it be seen in that way. But obviously, that's not the system that we live in.”