Graci D’Amore, Jane's Due Process' senior manager of direct services

One year post-Roe is an as-told-to series led by Prism’s Editor-at-Large Tina Vásquez, marking the milestone by featuring new and veteran advocates and organizers, abortion storytellers, providers, clinic directors, abortion fund volunteers, and reproductive justice organizers. You can read the complete series here

Most people don’t know the complications of accessing abortion care until they need an abortion. For teens, the process can be infinitely more complicated—especially post-Dobbs.  

Outside of the nationwide hodgepodge of anti-abortion laws, 36 states require young people to involve a parent in their decision to access abortion care, potentially subjecting them to physical abuse, emotional abuse, or homelessness. Some may even experience coercion from parents or guardians who disagree with their decision. Teens who cannot or do not want to tell their parent or guardian of their decision can get a judicial bypass, which requires asking a judge to allow them to get an abortion without involving a caregiver.

The process can be stressful and overwhelming, especially now that abortion is banned in multiple states. This now means that young people must travel farther distances to access care while navigating longer clinic wait times and state laws that are intentionally burdensome and require multiple clinic visits. This is where organizations like Jane’s Due Process step in. 

Based in Texas, Jane’s Due Process was formed to usher teens in the state through the judicial bypass process. Now that abortion is banned in Texas—and minors in the state are now also required to obtain parental consent to obtain free birth control at Title X clinics—the organization is working overtime to safely deliver teens emergency contraceptives and help them get care elsewhere in the country. The work isn’t easy, said Graci D’Amore, the organization’s senior manager of direct services. On any given day, D’Amore is communicating with desperate and scared teens from across the country who’ve reached out via the organization’s phone helpline or text hotline to ask for help figuring out their next steps. 

D’Amore told Prism that the teens Jane’s Due Process helps live at various intersections—they are people of color, queer, trans, immigrants, or speak English as a second language. These young people are experiencing multifaceted attacks on their bodily autonomy, and their identities shape how they are treated in the health care system. They need help, but they also need compassion and a nonjudgmental ear.

The insurmountable hurdles teens experience accessing abortion care should put them at the center of every national conversation about abortion access. Instead, they’re largely absent from the dialogue. In a recent phone call from Texas, D’Amore spoke to Prism about the atmosphere teens face in the state and the serious dangers posed by anti-abortion fake clinics—and D’Amore also shared her wish for all people seeking abortion care. Here she is, in her own words: 

One of our real strengths at Jane’s Due Process is that we have learned to pivot and adapt, but I will say, not just the last year, but the last several years have been some of the most difficult. 

It really started with the pandemic. The country started to shut down in March 2020, and then Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shut down all of the abortion clinics in Texas because he said they were “not medically necessary.” I’ll be honest; we were really scrambling. So many people needed abortion care, and all of the clinics were closed, and people couldn’t travel safely because of COVID. It was a horrible, horrible time—and the worst time for teens. How could they travel at the time without involving their parents? For the judicial bypass, they had to speak to a judge or go to a hearing over Zoom. Sometimes they didn’t have a safe space in the house, and if they got the bypass, they had no excuse to leave the house for multiple appointments to access care. I just remember the texts and calls we received at the time—the frustration and despair and fear. In response to the pandemic, we started working with the Bridge Collective to deliver free emergency contraceptives to teens in Austin.

Then, of course, Texas teens were hit again by the case that no longer allows them to obtain free birth control without parental consent at Title X clinics, which affects millions of young people. So, everywhere teens turn, there’s a roadblock. This also meant we had to pivot again, making plans to expand our emergency contraception distribution program to even more Texas communities. We are still focused on expanding access in birth control deserts as part of our Repro Kit program that we started in Lubbock, Texas, in January 2021 because the nearest Title X clinic was about 45 minutes away. We’ve expanded to Bryan, College Station, and San Angelo. A teen or anyone who needs it can text our hotline and request a kit containing emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, condoms, and reproductive health information. They provide a safe address and a safe time, and volunteers in their area make the contactless delivery, no questions. We hope to keep expanding to other cities because, right now, teens have no way of protecting themselves from pregnancy without involving a parent. 

I’m not going to abandon Texas because I’m invested in fighting to regain abortion rights. This is my home.

Every step of the way, we’ve known that worse was coming, but that knowledge didn’t make it easier. Leading up to Senate Bill 8, the six-week ban passed by our legislature in 2021, we worked as hard as we could to help get as many young people as possible access to care. It still makes me feel emotional and upset to talk about it because it’s just been really hard. After the Dobbs decision, we had to pause services as soon as the trigger ban went into effect, and there was so much uncertainty after that. We had to shut down our hotline and text lines for weeks because we didn’t know what information we could provide. After a while, you get tired of constantly having to pivot—especially when you’re managing volunteers and helping young people, and you just have to keep delivering bad news over and over again.

I’m not originally from Texas, but I’ve been here for about a decade, and I feel like a Texan, and I don’t have to try very hard to imagine the sort of overwhelming feelings that come with trying to access care. As a young college student, I had an abortion in Kansas, and I remember feeling all of the shame and stigma that these lawmakers and anti-abortion laws want you to feel. People still ask me, “Why are you in Texas? Why don’t you move to a state that actually cares about people?” I’m white. I’m queer, but straight-passing. If I needed another abortion, I have the privilege of being able to leave. I don’t experience the same harms and threats that a lot of Texans do when it comes to trying to access care, but I know what having an abortion meant for my life. 

I’m not going to abandon Texas because I’m invested in fighting to regain abortion rights. This is my home. Of course, Texas has its problems, but Texas is also a gerrymandered state where a small, loud group has been allowed to have a lot of power over other people’s lives here. I don’t have any animosity or anger toward the people who have left Texas or are still considering leaving. I get it. You have to do what feels safe and right for you. This is a hard state to do this work. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t burned out. It’s been a rough few years. Texas takes a toll.

It’s never the people who need care who make this work hard. It’s all of the outside forces trying to ban abortion care or spreading misinformation. [Anti-abortion fake clinics, also called crisis pregnancy centers] are a big problem in Texas. They’re very clever, and they have a lot of resources. The state gave them $100 million. When a crisis pregnancy center took over the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas, it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. They’ve done this in Lubbock. They buy up former clinics to lure people in and to appear legitimate. These fake clinics are really nuanced. Yes, they’re anti-abortion. Yes, they lie to people. They harass people. But they use clever means to get people in their doors because once they do, they can sink their claws into them and prevent them from having an abortion. People need to understand that they’re not just trying to dissuade pregnant people from accessing care; they very intentionally disrupt people’s ability to access care. 

I worked at a clinic, and when someone is at six weeks, you can barely detect the pregnancy. Jane’s Due Process once helped someone who first went to a crisis pregnancy center for a free ultrasound because she wanted to know how many weeks she was without having to pay for it. That’s one of their big draws for pregnant people—free ultrasounds. She was six-weeks pregnant, and the staff at the CPC told her she was 16 weeks and that her baby “had blonde hair and blue eyes.” 

Everything about accessing abortion care for teens is harder—especially when you add these other complications and players that are trying to stop them from accessing care.

Another example that really sticks with me is from pre-SB 8 when abortion was legal up to 21 weeks and six days. We had a young person who lived in East Texas who wanted an abortion. She found out she was pregnant when she was six weeks. She unknowingly went to a CPC to make an appointment for an abortion, and during her first appointment, they didn’t talk about abortion. They told her they would talk about abortion during her next appointment that they scheduled for two weeks later. They did that to her over and over again; they kept luring her back under the premise of scheduling her abortion, but they never did. Finally, at around 16 weeks, she started to panic and realized they weren’t going to help her. She somehow found us, and we first had to help her go through the judicial bypass process. The judge in her hometown had ruled on some criminal charges against her two siblings, so when it came time for her judicial bypass hearing, he had all of these preconceived notions about her and denied the bypass. That extended her timeline even further. We eventually got it approved, and she had an abortion at 21 weeks and a couple of days, just under the cutoff. 

This is the effect of misinformation on young people’s lives. It has very serious consequences. Everything about accessing abortion care for teens is harder—especially when you add these other complications and players that are trying to stop them from accessing care. It can be hard for adults to identify a fake clinic, so imagine what it’s like for someone who is young, who doesn’t have a lot of lived experience, who is taught to trust people they believe to be health care professionals, and who doesn’t feel comfortable questioning authority. These fake clinics have been allowed to prey on young people. This is why I say that teens are the most marginalized group when it comes to abortion care.

We have a text line, and we hear from teens all over the country. I was recently talking to a teen in Virginia who made an appointment at a crisis pregnancy center for an ultrasound because she couldn’t pay for one. She couldn’t tell her mom what was going on, and her mom had all of her insurance information. She was like, “I just want to know how pregnant I am. I’ve taken three positive pregnancy tests. I know CPCs are anti-abortion, but I really need this ultrasound.” I understood the position she was in, but of course, we don’t want people to be harmed by these fake clinics if they can avoid it. I told her I could connect her to New River Abortion Fund and Planned Parenthood, where she could get a free ultrasound because an ultrasound is necessary for an abortion anyway. She had no idea those were even options. 

You deserve to access the care you need and want, and you should be affirmed in your decision and feel loved, cared for, and supported in the process. 

These scenarios come up a lot, and it makes me concerned about how the misinformation might be winning. Why are CPCs understood to offer ultrasounds, but not clinics? “Crisis pregnancy centers” are thought of as giving resources to people—they give out free diapers, for example. They have figured out how to fill a need, and even though a lot of stipulations come with their “help,” people turn to them because there are so few places for pregnant people in Texas to turn to. This is why it’s so important when reproductive justice organizations can also fill this gap. The Hoosier Abortion Fund opened up a true pregnancy center in Indiana, an all-options pregnancy center that gives out diapers, provides parenting classes, and still operates an abortion fund. 

It gives me hope that the people doing abortion access work are so deeply committed to helping people. I know that I am. I love and support every single abortion-haver and -seeker. Nobody should feel stigma and shame for their decision. I remember what it was like to struggle with those feelings, and I just want to say that if you are trying to access care right now, I’m sorry it’s become so difficult. We are going to keep fighting to make it less difficult. You deserve to access the care you need and want, and you should be affirmed in your decision and feel loved, cared for, and supported in the process. 

Tina Vásquez is the editor-at-large at Prism. She covers gender justice, workers' rights, and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.