Mothers who had abortions at young age share why that procedure was right choice at the time

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Tuesday, December 6, 2022
What overturn of Roe v. Wade means for Houston 5 months later
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Five months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Houston Women's Clinic in Houston is empty, and Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld shares his experiences.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Five months after Roe v. Wade was overturned, the Houston Women's Clinic is empty. The weeds are now crowding sidewalk cracks and its sign is starting to sag.

"These women were desperate, and we were here to help them," Dr. Bernard Rosenfeld said. "That was a thought process of everybody who was working."

Rosenfeld is 80 years old. It's the kind of 80, where, when you ask his age, he tells you he goes to the gym seven days a week.

He bought the Houston Women's Clinic 42 years ago in 1980 and was joined by his wife and nurse practitioner, Lou Diamond, a couple of years later.

When ABC13's Pooja Lodhia met them, they were packing up files and mementos at their office.

Rosenfeld said there's one patient he will never forget -- a 38-year-old woman who headed an anti-abortion group.

He turned her away.

"It's one of those things that until it happens to you, you can have all the thoughts about it," Rosenfeld explained. "We had women who picketed the clinic who brought their daughters in."

Chances are you know somebody who has had an abortion.

Before Roe v. Wade was overturned, The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights group, estimated about one in four American women would get an abortion before turning 45. And patients aren't always who you think they are.

Of those patients, 59% of them have already had at least one child. Sixty percent were in their 20s, and 13% are in their teens.

"I'm like, 'Oh, well, I had an abortion.' They're like, 'You did? When?' Then it opens the conversation. 'When I was 17,'" Shannah Quinn said. "My children who I have now probably wouldn't exist if I didn't terminate that pregnancy when I was 17, and they are amazing."

Quinn and her friend, Chau Nguyen, have both had abortions. They're also both mothers.

"There's no way I could have birthed a child at 18 and been emotionally or financially ready. Period," Nguyen said. "I was barely 18. The cultural context and fallout of being Vietnamese, the child of immigrant daughters, all those issues, all those fears. I believed the rhetoric. I stayed in that shame and secrecy, for sure."

We asked her what changed.

"Life, experiences, being a mother, being a social worker," Nguyen said.

But Nguyen and Quinn's children are growing up without the same options they had. With nearly all abortions banned in Texas, the Houston Women's Clinic will be put up for sale soon.

The padlock at the gate hasn't stopped protestors, though. Just minutes into our interview, a man showed up yelling into the office and telling Dr. Rosenfeld that the doctor was killing babies.

Officers with the Houston Police Department still patrol the empty building.

Back in the 1990's, anti-abortion violence reached a terrifying peak. Across the county, seven people were killed, and most of them were doctors.

"Janet Reno, who was the attorney general at that time, thought I was at-risk enough that she sent down two federal marshals to protect me for six months," Rosenfeld said. "I was frightened. They would throw bullets in the parking lot."

"They had like rifles in the backseat of their cars, so you could see them," Diamond remembered. "So obvious. It was sitting right there, and he used to go out and talk to them."

Rosenfeld never wore the bulletproof vest authorities sent him.

"It wasn't like we were so afraid we couldn't work," he said. "We felt like we were really helping a lot of women and whatever risks there were, we were willing to take it."

They always expected it would be safety concerns, not state laws, that would force them to eventually close.

Rosenfeld spends most of his time now at his other medical office, where he does tubal reversals, treating those who got their tubes tied and now want children.

"It's really just a different side of the same coin, and it's much more than other surgery how grateful people are to get help out of these problems," he said.

"I look back with an immense sense of gratitude, perspective, and just relief that I had access to an abortion, that it was safe, legal, and easy," Nguyen said.

"Never during those moments was I ever thinking, 'Well, maybe I'll just stay pregnant.' No. I was like, 'How do I get to California to get this taken care of somewhere else?' I wasn't ever thinking, 'Oh, you're right, I'll just not,'" Quinn added.

Rosenfeld has no plans to retire, and when protestors show up at his home, he still listens.

"They would tell me, 'Dr. Rosenfeld, Jesus still loves you.' I said, 'Well, I'm Jewish. He never even liked me at all,'" he laughed.

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