When Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed an unusually restrictive abortion ban into law last week, Dr. Bhavik Kumar was pained to think about the people it would hurt the most — patients like those he's served as an abortion provider at the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston.
The law, which is expected to be challenged and is not yet in effect, forbids abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
"While politicians pass these laws in faraway buildings, we actually see these people, we take care of them," Kumar told Insider. "There are people depending on us. They have names. They have families. And their ability to access care will make the world of difference to them."
The story of a 13-year-old girl remains salient. She'd been raped by her grandfather and told her mom when she stopped getting her periods. A doctor confirmed she was pregnant, but the girl couldn't get an abortion close to home in Texas, where abortion access is already limited, so she was driven hours to Kumar's clinic.
"She shouldn't have to be dealing with any of what she's dealt with, but when I think about if a law like this were to go into effect and she wasn't able to access abortion, if that's what she had chosen, then what would her life be like? How different would it be?" Kumar said. "It's difficult for me to think about that, to have that choice robbed from somebody."
More recently, Kumar saw a 17-year-old who'd been roofied and raped at their first party. They didn't know who the perpetrator was. "They decided not to be pregnant. They didn't even make the decision to have sex. So this [law] would not give them any options; it would force them to carry that pregnancy," Kumar said.
Theoretically, patients like the two teens could travel to neighboring states with less restrictive abortion bans, but that takes time, money, and other resources.
A poll found that more than three-quarters of Americans support exceptions for rape and incest
The bill justifies not allowing exceptions for rape and incest by saying that "public and private agencies" provide "emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest."
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a sponsor of the bill, told CNN that law enforcement should hold perpetrators accountable but not hurt the fetus. "Let's harshly punish the rapist, but we don't, we don't punish the unborn child," he said.
Abortions due to rape and incest are rare. A 2005 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that 1% of women who'd gotten abortions said they did so because they conceived through rape, and less than 0.5% said they did so because of incest.
A 2018 Gallup poll found that 77% of Americans said they supported abortions in the first trimester in cases of rape and incest, and 52% said they still supported it in the third trimester.