LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s been almost a week since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Arkansas clinics that once offered abortions are now thinking of the future.
At Planned Parenthood of Little Rock, a normal Thursday would see a packed parking lot, patients waiting for appointments made well in advance. But this week, the parking lot only holds staff members’ cars, few patients except for a few appointments left over in the push to reschedule following the overturning.
“It has been a very emotional week,” said Dr. Janet Cathey, physician provider at Planned Parenthood. She’s on the frontlines of a post-Roe world, she and her staff seeing the consequences of the overturning and Arkansas’ abortion ban firsthand.
Since Friday, she’s had to make calls telling patients the medication abortion they’ve scheduled can no longer be done legally in the state, with Arkansas’ trigger law banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother. Cathey remembers one patient saying she’d have to “just see this through” after being told she would have to travel more than 6 hours for the next-closest abortion clinic, all the way in Kansas.
“We had one patient who we were explaining that she would have to go out of state, that it would be in Kansas City, Wichita, or it would be in Illinois outside of St. Louis,” Dr. Cathey remembered, “and she was just overwhelmed with the thought of it.”
The weight of the decision can be felt in the clinic; from the empty rooms to the hard conversations with patients, letting them know where they can go to get care.
The atmosphere is still one of shock, but also determination, a plan to continue with the other various services offered and a hope that patients will find the right path with their help, just one outside their doors.
“There are people here such as Planned Parenthood that will help you navigate the system, ” Dr. Cathey said, adding abortion is still legal in several states and available for those who travel.
Planned Parenthood will remain open and continue to offer other services, including family planning, contraceptive care, sexual health, and education.
Dr. Cathey says it’s important patients know that contraceptives are still protected – and women will not be penalized for traveling outside of Arkansas to get the treatments they want or need.