Despite end of Roe v. Wade, a Hialeah abortion clinic is packed as usual. But for how long?

·6 min read

She was scrolling through Instagram Friday morning when she stumbled on the news, just an hour before she planned to drive to Hialeah to start the process to terminate an unexpected pregnancy. Her heart sank.

It had already been a hard process, finding an abortion clinic that would see her as soon as she wished, coming up with the funds to cover the cost and actually getting herself there, said the 32-year-old Puerto Rican woman who stopped by A Hialeah Woman’s Care Center Friday for her first visit.

It was business as usual at the small but bustling clinic a little over an hour after the Supreme Court, as anticipated after the leak of a draft opinion, weeks earlier, issued its ruling eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The action overturned a nearly 50-year-old precedent and potentially foretold the end of the clinic that has served Hialeah for roughly 40 years.

But that’s an issue for down the road. On Friday, the cramped waiting area of the center, located on East 25th Street, was packed, with all but one of the 14 chairs filled.

A staff member could be heard in the reception area asking a patient “¿la pastilla o el otro?” — “the pill or the other one?” It was a reference to two means of terminating a pregnancy that are offered at the clinic.

The clinic sits in the middle of a long, old and colorful strip mall with a Latin café, a Dominican hair salon and an international shipping business. In addition to oral (by way of pill) and surgical abortions, it offers birth control and lab work services.

The waiting area, adorned with pink walls and festooned with women’s care posters, was mostly silent. The majority of the patrons sat alone in the chilled room, filling out patient forms and distracting themselves on their phones while they waited for their names to be called. Others passed the time with their partners in silence. Once called, the women, none of whom wanted to be identified, were buzzed through a white door to be counseled or treated, depending on whether it was their first or second visit.

READ MORE: What does U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade mean for Florida?

Florida law requires women to wait 24 hours after an initial visit before they can get an abortion, meaning patients must visit the provider at least twice.

Every 10 minutes or so, the silence was broken when the Metrorail train rumbled past the front of the establishment. The rail station is across the street, making the clinic accessible to those outside of the working-class city that is more than 90% Hispanic.

Florida’s sixth largest city with more than 230,000 residents, Hialeah is run by a Republican mayor and represented by Republicans in Tallahassee and Washington. The operator, who asked not to be identified, guesses that the vast majority of her clients lean Republican, a party that has made opposition to abortion a veritable litmus test.

In addition to her clinic, Hialeah supports at least three others.

On Friday, a staff member who did not wish to be named told the Herald the size of the crowd wasn’t unusual. They are always busy, performing as many as 20 abortions a day.

An inside view of the reception area of A Hialeah Woman’s Care Center. The operator, who took over the business from her mother, says she plans to stay in business as long as Florida law allows. That is an uncertain prospect. The waiting room was briefly emptied at the time of the photo out of respect for patient privacy.
An inside view of the reception area of A Hialeah Woman’s Care Center. The operator, who took over the business from her mother, says she plans to stay in business as long as Florida law allows. That is an uncertain prospect. The waiting room was briefly emptied at the time of the photo out of respect for patient privacy.

Friday’s ruling, in a Mississippi case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, does not amount to a blanket ban on abortion. Rather it left the decision on whether to allow abortions, and if so, how many weeks into a pregnancy, at the discretion of individual states.

Many states with Republican-dominated legislatures have either passed “trigger laws” banning abortion that kicked in immediately upon the high court’s ruling or are expected to pass near-total bans in the immediate future. Some states with Democratic legislatures have moved to make abortion more accessible to those from out of state. Large companies like Disney, Yelp, Apple and Meta have announced plans to cover the cost for employees to transport themselves from states that outlaw abortion to those that permit them.

READ MORE: ‘The prayers of millions have been answered,’ DeSantis says

Meanwhile, states that have or will soon outlaw abortions are seeking ways to block residents from leaving home to seek an abortion in another jurisdiction.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday after the decision was announced that he would “work to expand pro-life protections,” but he was not specific about what that would entail. Florida, unlike many states, has a right to privacy enshrined in its constitution, which has helped undergird abortion rights.

Amid legislative efforts to curb abortion — including the 24-hour waiting period and a law that takes effect July 1 restricting abortions to the first 15 weeks of a pregnancy — Florida is one of the few states to see abortion numbers rise in recent years. That could be because nearby states have restricted abortion even more, sending clients south.

For those like the Puerto Rican woman in the waiting room in Hialeah, traveling to some far off state, locating a provider and staying overnight, perhaps before and after the procedure, would be a daunting economic burden.

“It’s difficult enough to get an abortion now, and they’re probably going to make it harder,” said the woman, who spent time during the week calling clinics trying to find the earliest appointment. Most told her she would have to wait too long, in her opinion, so she decided on A Hialeah Woman’s Care Center, which accepts walk-ins.

A few years ago, she thought if she got pregnant in her 30s, she would probably be able to support the child, but after finding herself unexpectedly in the situation this past week she knew she could not go through with the pregnancy. She made her decision and wanted to terminate as soon as possible.

“Especially with how hard life is right now [financially] I can barely maintain myself. I can’t even think about being a single mother right now,” said the woman who lives in Miami.

The clinic was opened in the late ‘80s and like many businesses in Hialeah, from botanicas to gas stations, it is a family affair, passed on from one generation to the next. The woman who runs it said it used to be operated by her mother.

The outlet sees patients from all kinds of different background, from women who already have kids but can’t sustain another to victims of rape, said the the operator.

She related how most staff at the clinic had their own experiences with abortion. That includes herself.

She was was two weeks away from finishing up at the police academy when she found out she was pregnant. She already was struggling to provide for one child and knew she wanted to have more children. But not then. “It was either start my career or go back on welfare.”

And so she chose an abortion.

After her first visit, the 32-year-old told the Herald she felt taken care of and understood, but also frustrated with the uncertainty regarding the future of the clinic and others like it. She was comforted by the amount of people she saw at the clinic who found themselves there for the same reason as her — and at the same worried about the women who may no longer have that option in the future.

The operator said she plans to help others avail themselves of that option, if they so choose, as long as Florida law allows.

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