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Meet the doctor who performed 67 abortions the day before the Texas abortion ban took effect

"Where am I? Am I in Myanmar or something like that? Or Rwanda? No, I'm not there. I'm in Texas and I'm told I can't do the surgery," he said.

Meet the doctor who performed 67 abortions the day before the Texas abortion ban took effect
Cover Image Source: Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on September 11, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images)

An abortion clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, worked until midnight on August 31 in a bid to provide service for their patients for as long as they legally could before the state's new restrictive abortion law came into effect. Jasbir Ahluwalia, the 83-year-old OB-GYN who was working at the Whole Woman's Health abortion clinic that day, recently spoke to VICE about performing 67 abortions in the rush to meet the deadline. "We knew we had to take care of each one of them," he said. "There was one nurse who worked at a major hospital in Dallas, and she was waiting for her pill abortion. She waited there for three hours."


"And she had to go on duty the next night. And she didn't know—she waited. [She said,] 'I know that very likely I may not be able to make it. But I was going to wait.' And so about 15 minutes before midnight, I got her in and gave her the pill instructions and all that and she was out. She was very appreciative that she got her pill, at least. She was, what, eight weeks, and she would not have qualified [for an abortion under the new law]," Ahluwalia explained. "Nobody cared for their own welfare. The workers—they want to take care of the patients."



"That was an amazing, amazing attitude I saw for the first time in all these 50 years of practice of medicine," he continued. "We were joking, 'There was plenty of food in the break room—nobody would go.' They wanted to take care of every patient, bring them in, move and move and move. I saw tremendous, tremendous teamwork that night. This was like, 'We're going to fight a war.' This is a war against the politicians, and we're going to fight and win. We're not going to turn around anybody. And it went on by the book. We did not take any shortcuts. Everything was done properly. I was really amazed."



Ahluwalia revealed that despite the urgency of the situation, the patients "were all very calm" throughout the day. When he came back to work the next day, he could no longer perform abortions in cases where a "fetal heartbeat" is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. This means he can now only perform abortions on a fraction of the patients who come to him for help, as about 85% of abortions in Texas take place after six weeks of pregnancy. "Everybody went to bed at 2 o'clock. Next morning, at 8 o'clock, we were back there because we had some new patients we’re seeing. Not many came," Ahluwalia recalled.



"The stenographer showed up again in the morning. We had coffee. We started doing sonograms. We turned some patients away. There's nobody in the clinic. It's like an empty clinic," he continued. "You couldn't imagine the difference between night and day. And there's nothing we can do about it. It’s a law, it's in effect, we have to observe it. So it was a very sad, hollow feeling. Is this what we're dealing with? Is it really true? Is it a dream that we have an empty clinic and patients are calling in and we cannot take care of them? Basically, I'm still a surgeon and I cannot do surgeries. Wow. Is that so? Who decided that? Not the medical board. Not the doctors. But some crazy politicians."



"Where am I? Am I in Myanmar or something like that? Or Rwanda? No, I'm not there. I'm in Texas and I'm told I can't do the surgery. So what do I do with myself now? Sell shoes? I'm 83 years old, and my plan is to go on and on and on until I can not do something physically or I think I'm not safe. But the way it seemed to me, before the law came in, that I'll probably go on for another 10 years helping women. Looks like that's not gonna be true now, unless something happens," Ahluwalia said. "If this was Myanmar, Rwanda, or one of those countries, I'd understand. I'll just leave those countries, like I did Uganda. But the United States? Countries are supposed to look at us, look at this country, as a leader, as an example to be copied. Is this what's going on here? That's what makes me sad."



When asked about how people handle being told they're too far along, he revealed: "Some of them feel kind of really let down. They know already. They know what's going on. So we are seeing more and more patients in the very early stages—five weeks or so, five weeks, three days, five weeks, two days, which is very unusual. But there'll be some, quite a bit actually, who do not qualify, and they're very disappointed. They don't show emotionally. They don't start bawling. When I finish, I hand them over to the counselor. I just tell them, 'I'm sorry, you're a little further along.'"



"About 40 or 60 percent, we are not able to take care of them. The very few who do qualify, we are very careful. We are just totally complying with the law. We look at the sonogram—and we do a vaginal sonogram, not even abdominal, because they're so much more sensitive, to make sure we don't miss anything. And we do send patients away," Ahluwalia continued. "We've got to stay with the law, whatever it is. So we do reject a lot of patients, and that's very sad. And it's not that these patients can take a flight, go down to New Mexico or drive to Oklahoma. Patients who barely even have enough funds to pay for the abortion when it’s here, we have to find funds for them—they're not able to go anywhere. These are the people who are going to suffer."

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