Inside an abortion clinic the moment Roe vs. Wade collapsed

My job was to illustrate a story of how Blue states could get an influx of post-abortion patients from neighboring Red states into Roe vs. Wade turned. So I was in New Mexico last Thursday, when many thought the Supreme Court would deliver its verdict.

I had emailed two clinics including the doctors working there. After several email exchanges, the Center for Reproductive Health at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque agreed to let me in. The doctors and staff welcomed me, giving me more access than expected.

I arrived at 8 a.m. with Elizabeth Gibson, my escort from the university, waiting for me in the parking lot. I soon met a new family doctor and other medical staff.

A staff member reacts after hearing the news that the Supreme Court had reversed Roe v. Wade

A staff member at Alamo Female Fertility Services in San Antonio wipes tears after learning that the Supreme Court had reversed Roe v. Wade,

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

What unfolded that day and thereafter embodies the challenges of being a photojournalist in such situations – how to portray reality accurately but compassionately, for subjects to maintain some secrecy in their most personal and vulnerable moments. Go.

Within minutes, I was able to photograph a 25-year-old patient during an ultrasound procedure. Although she didn’t want her face to be shown, the photos are intimate and tell a story.

At 8:31 am my phone started vibrating.

I looked down at the caller ID, and it was our Houston bureau chief Molly Hennessy-Fiske on the line.

A doctor and his resident watching an ultrasound

A physician and her resident look at an ultrasound at the Center for Reproductive Health in Albuquerque a day before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“I think I can take us tomorrow to the abortion clinic in San Antonio, Texas,” she said.

I said in a whispered voice, “We have to go.”

We did not know when the Supreme Court would deliver its verdict. Nothing was certain. I was thinking to myself how important and historic it would be to be inside the clinic when the verdict came, especially in the red.

I put my phone in my back pocket and hurriedly back to the employee work area, where I photographed the doctor and his resident watching an ultrasound of a 39-year-old woman seeking an abortion. The woman already had four children.

The woman agreed to let me photograph her procedure without revealing her identity. I entered the exam room, where 1980s music was playing softly through the ceiling speakers. The room was dark except for the small and bright examination hall lights.

A doctor, right, and her resident perform a surgical abortion

A doctor and his resident abort a 39-year-old woman who already has four children. The next day, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Albuquerque clinic expects an influx of patients from neighboring states that have banned abortions. The doctors did not want to reveal their identity for security reasons.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

I wanted to capture the mood of a light source, so I adjusted the ISO on my camera; Which controls the amount of light going in. I was standing at the back of the room. The identity of the woman was not known from Angle.

The doctor and his resident worked closely as assistant nurses during the procedure.

“are you doing OK?” The doctor asked the patient on the examination table. The woman accepted, nodding her head.

At one point, the nurse held the patient’s hand and gently rubbed her head.

My Apple Watch started vibrating.

The text message from Gibson, my escort inside the clinic, said, “I need to leave soon.” She was waiting outside the examination hall.

Left, a family doctor and his resident perform an ultrasound.  Okay, a family doctor and her resident perform an abortion.

A doctor and his resident in Albuquerque perform an ultrasound of a 25-year-old woman a day before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Right: A doctor and his resident aborted a 39-year-old woman.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“Do you mind if I stay here another 5 minutes and maybe Angela can take me out?” I wrote back.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the policy. I have to be with you,” she replied.

“3 more minutes, okay?”

I wanted to stay until the end of the woman’s procedure, but after 3 minutes I left the room.

“You don’t have to go in!” They kill children!

– The workers pleaded with the women outside the clinic

I got into my rental car and drove to a shady parking lot. I needed to get confirmation that I was allowed to be photographed inside the Texas clinic the next morning—and find a way to get there that night.

I left a voicemail for Andrea Gallegos, executive director of the clinic in San Antonio, and sent her a text message.

I waited. Ten minutes passed.

A patient in the waiting room considers her abortion options.

Sitting in the waiting room of Alamo Female Fertility Services in San Antonio, a patient who wanted to be known only by her first name, Liz, considers her options after being told that the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. Had given.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Then, a message from Andrea arrived. After back and forth, she agreed to let us visit the clinic first thing in the morning. I headed towards the airport. That night it would take me six hours to get from Albuquerque to San Antonio.

When I arrived at the Alamo Female Fertility Service at 9 a.m. Friday, patients were already standing outside the door.

Protesters were shouting through megaphones on the sidewalk near the clinic.

“You don’t have to go in!” The workers appealed to the women. “They kill kids!”

Molly and I were taken to a back office to meet Dr. Alan Brad, the owner of the clinic. Then at 9:13 everything changed.

A patient has tears in his eyes as a staff member informs him that the clinic can no longer provide services

A patient cries as a staff member informs her that Alamo Female Reproductive Services in San Antonio can no longer provide abortion services.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Brad’s daughter Gallegos patted her head in the door.

“It’s out. Judgment is out,” she said. “Complete reversal.”

Damned peak. Then he started tearing up. I was able to break a frame of the peak when the tears came. Then, he looked at me carefully and said, “Come on!”

“The Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. They’ve taken away your right to choose what to do with your body.”

– Dr. Alan Brad, owner of the clinic

I knew at that point I had to put my camera down. I wanted to capture his feelings at the time, but at the same time I didn’t want to offend Brad and hurt his chances of staying at the clinic longer.

My mind was racing. I needed to go to the waiting room, where patients were unaware of what had just happened.

Doctor Alan Brad, along with Andrea Gallegos, the clinic's executive administrator, begins informing patients

Dr. Alan Brad and Andrea Gallegos, executive administrators of the San Antonio clinic, begin to inform patients inside the waiting room that they can no longer provide abortion services.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

It was a delicate balance for me. I promised the clinic administrator that I would respect patient privacy and would not photograph any patient who did not allow us to do so. Although it was a historic moment, I had to stick to my promise.

On my way to the waiting room, I snapped a picture of a staff member who was clearly upset.

Brad enters the waiting room with Gallegos. As I drew Brad’s picture from across the room, the patients lowered their heads as he spoke.

“The Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. They took away your right to choose what to do with your body,” he told the women.

“Unfortunately, my hands are tied,” Brad said, explaining the risks of challenging the law. “I could go to jail for life and be fined $100,000.”

An empty waiting room at Alamo Female Fertility Services

The waiting room at the Alamo Female Fertility Service in San Antonio is empty, an hour after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The clinic could no longer provide abortion services.

I went there where I saw a patient who was sitting with a blank gaze. With my camera on silent mode, I took a picture of him. As soon as he left the clinic, I followed him outside to take his name. She said I could use her first name, Liz.

As patients left the clinic in the morning, more were stunned, unaware that abortion was now illegal in Texas.

Patient April Reese, 41, arrived just an hour after the decision. He already has three children.

An emotional employee told him the news.

A tearful staff member hugs a patient after informing that the clinic can no longer provide abortion services

A crying staff member at Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services in San Antonio hugs a patient after being told that the clinic can no longer provide abortion services.

(Gina Farazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“So we have to move out of state?” Reese asked. “this is insane.”

Reese was about to leave when she saw that the employee who had helped her was crying. He hugged the employee.

“You guys have done a great job for the people. So keep it in your heart,” Reese said. “Don’t give up fighting.”

Another patient, who was upset, sat in a waiting room chair and cried as a staff tried to comfort him. I photographed him through the glass in the receptionist’s area.

Two hours after Row turned, the waiting room at Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services was empty.

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