On Thursday, July 20, it will be a year since Georgia’s law banning abortions at around the sixth week of pregnancy came into force.
It’s six weeks before many people realize they’re pregnant, and the law means patients and clinics across the state have to deal with a multitude of changes.
The biggest change is that so many patients have to be turned away when their ultrasounds show they were more than six weeks pregnant, said Aneisha Jacobs, a registered nurse and supervisor at Feminist Women’s Health Center.
“I would say almost every day we have to turn away a patient because they’re over 6, maybe over 7 or 8,” she said. “So we’re giving them other clinics that they can go to outside of the state of Georgia that’s further north than we are.”
According to a recent national report from the Society of Family Planning, a research group that supports access to abortions, Georgia has been among the states with the most patients turned away from clinics offering abortions since the Supreme Court Roe in June 2022 v. Wade lifted.
Jacobs says it’s often overwhelming for patients to hear they may have to leave another state to have an abortion.
“It’s very emotional because it’s more like saying ‘no’ to someone about a service that you used to offer and then maybe also because maybe they already have kids and they can’t go on that journey this time because he works,” she says. “It can be stressful, but we can just be the bridge that connects them to care elsewhere.”
The presence of abortion opponents in front of clinics is also stressful for patients and clinics.
“On abortion days, we have to figure out how to … get to the clinic ourselves and get patients to the clinic safely,” Jacobs said.
Aneisha Jacobs, a nurse and head of care at Atlanta’s Feminist Women’s Health Center, peeks through the blinds to check for anti-abortion activists on the street. The clinic provides abortion services and is a regular target of anti-abortionists. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)
And this week there are more protesters than usual in Atlanta. The Christian anti-abortion group Operation Save America holds its annual conference in the city and organizes hundreds of people to protest outside Atlanta-area clinics.
The group has tried to enter or block access to clinics in the past.
On Tuesday, more than 100 OSA protesters gathered outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center, a clinic in Forest Park.
“OSA chose this area because Georgia has become one of the politically contentious states on these issues to raise awareness about the issues surrounding abortion,” said Josh Buice, pastor of Prays Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville host of the conference.
He said he didn’t think Georgia’s six-week lockdown went far enough. The OSA is urging lawmakers to bar all access to abortion.
“Our number one goal in everything we do would be the complete abolition of abortion,” he said.
For hours, the group’s protesters stood in the blazing sun on the narrow sidewalk in front of the clinic’s entrance, waving anti-abortion signs at passing cars and preaching over a loudspeaker pointed at the clinic building.
“Jesus Christ has already been murdered. “It has already been said and done,” said one man. “That applies to this matter of abortion. That applies to the killing of your child.”
The abortion rights group provides support outside of the clinic
Just a few yards away, in the clinic’s parking lot, volunteers in bright pink or rainbow vests escorted patients to and from their appointments.
Max Carwile stood under a shady tree and watched the scene.
She’s a statewide organizer for an abortion rights group called the Abortion Access Front, which is also focusing on Georgia and OSA this week.
“Part of our job is to monitor the opposition so we can alert clinics when they’re coming and help them prepare,” Carwile said. “When we found out that Operation Save America came here to harass these clinics, we wanted to come to be on the ground to provide support, provide some safety information and information.”
Operation Save America is expected to have protests across Atlanta through Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit challenging Georgia’s abortion restrictions. Judges heard oral arguments earlier in the year.
The court could decide any time up until November.