By Jess Mador | WABE
Thursday, July 20, marked one year since Georgia’s law banning abortion at roughly six weeks of pregnancy took effect.
Six weeks is before many people realize they’re pregnant, and the law has meant navigating a host of changes for patients and clinics across the state.
The biggest change is having to turn away so many patients when their ultrasounds show their pregnancies are beyond six weeks, said Aneisha Jacobs, a nurse practitioner and nursing supervisor at Feminist Women’s Health Center.
“I would say almost every day we have to turn a patient away because they’re measuring over the six, maybe they’re measuring at seven or maybe they’re measuring at eight,” she said. “So we give them other clinics that they can go to out of the state of Georgia, which are going to be more north than us.”
Georgia is among the states seeing the most patients turned away from clinics that provide abortions since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, according to a recent national report from the Society of Family Planning, a research group that supports abortion access.
Jacobs says it is often overwhelming for patients to hear they may need to travel out of state for an abortion.
“It’s very emotional because it’s moreso telling someone no to a service that you used to offer before and then also, maybe they have kids already and they can’t take off this time to go on this trip because they’re working,” she said. “It can be stressful, but we can only be the bridge to connect them to care somewhere else.”
Also stressful for patients and clinics is the presence of anti-abortion protesters outside clinics.
“On abortion days, we have to figure out how are we going to … get in the clinic ourselves and get patients in the clinic safely,” Jacobs said.
And this week, Atlanta is seeing more protesters than usual. The Christian anti-abortion group Operation Save America is holding its annual conference in the city and organizing hundreds of people to protest at Atlanta-area clinics.
The group has a history of attempting to trespass into or blockade access to clinics.
On Tuesday, more than 100 OSA protesters gathered outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center, a clinic in Forest Park.
“OSA has chosen this area because of the fact that Georgia has become one of the battleground states on these issues, politically speaking, to provide awareness for the issues surrounding abortion,” said Josh Buice, pastor at Prays Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, which is hosting the conference.
He said he thinks Georgia’s six-week ban doesn’t go far enough. OSA is pushing for lawmakers to cut off all access to abortion.
“So our ultimate goal in anything that we do would be to see the total abolition of abortion,” he said.
For hours in the blazing sun, the group’s protesters stood along the narrow sidewalk outside the clinic entrance, waving anti-abortion signs at passing cars and preaching through a loudspeaker directed toward the clinic building.
“Jesus Christ was already murdered. This has already been said and done,” a man said. “That applies to this matter of abortion. That applies to this killing of your child.”
Abortion rights group provides support outside clinic
Just a few feet away inside the clinic parking lot, volunteers in bright pink or rainbow-colored vests escorted patients to and from their appointments.
Max Carwile stood under a shady tree keeping an eye on the scene.
She’s a national organizer with an abortion rights group called Abortion Access Front, which is also focusing on Georgia and OSA this week.
“Part of our work is monitoring the opposition so that we are able to warn clinics when they are coming and help them prepare,” Carwile said. “Finding out that Operation Save America was coming here to harass these clinics, we wanted to come, to show up, to provide support, provide some security information and intel.”
Operation Save America is expected to protest across Atlanta until Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court is weighing a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s abortion restrictions. Justices heard oral arguments earlier this year.
The court could rule anytime between now and November.
This story was provided by Decaturish media partner WABE News.