I had to tell her that under Mississippi law, patients like her cannot get an abortion on their first visit to a clinic. Instead, they have to sit through state-mandated “counseling” — visits that can take several hours. Then they have to come back another day to get the pills for their medication abortion or have their procedure. Often, patients are not able to make that second appointment until the following week or later because we’re booked up or because they can’t make arrangements for child care or get time off work again.

The patient pleaded with me through tears, as many do. She did not understand why such laws exist. “Baby, I don’t make the laws,” I told her. “But we have to follow them or we’ll get shut down.”

In fact, those layers of state restrictions were working against her just as lawmakers had intended — pushing abortion out of reach, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. I watched her walk out after “counseling,” not knowing if I’d see her again. She made it back to get her abortion the next week, but not all patients do.

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