Dalton Johnson knew that his phone would be ringing off the hook.
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Every time Alabama lawmakers or courts move on a bill that chisels away at abortion rights, patients call in with questions for the Alabama Women's Center, one of the three clinics that provide abortions in the state, which is owned by Johnson.
That happened in 2013, when lawmakers required that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and again in 2016 when they banned a second trimester method known as dilation and evacuation, and barred abortion clinics within 2,000 feet of public elementary and middle schools. All of those laws -- which are known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws -- were later blocked in court.
"It happens every time one of these TRAP laws happens," Johnson told ABC News. "There's always a flood of calls: 'Are you guys still open?' 'Can I get my procedure done?'"
Since the state Senate passed a bill last week that would criminalize providing abortions, without exceptions for cases of rape or incest, the "phone's been ringing nonstop," Johnson said, especially since Gov. Kay Ivey went on to sign it.
The signing of that Alabama bill came a week after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a so-called "heartbeat" ban. This week, Gov. John Bel Edwards said he'd sign a "heartbeat" ban in Louisiana should it pass the state legislature.
None of these bills have gone into effect, and the Georgia and Alabama bills are both facing legal challenges. Abortion remains legal in all 50 states, and no state has a functioning six-week abortion ban.
The sometimes convoluted procedures for how laws are approved and then challenged in court, coupled with the charged language used by politicians and advocates on both sides of the issue, has at times left patients misinformed.
Employees at abortion clinics in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana told ABC News they are receiving non-stop calls from patients, mostly with the same concerns: has abortion been outlawed, has the clinic closed its doors, should appointments made for the future be pushed sooner? One Alabama clinic got a call from someone asking “will they get locked up, will they be charged of a crime" if they got an abortion.
The sometimes convoluted procedures for how laws are approved and then challenged in court, coupled with the charged language used by politicians on both sides of the issue, has at times left patients misinformed. It is not the case, for example, that any state has passed an outright abortion ban, or that abortion has been outlawed once a "heartbeat" is detected, around six weeks of a pregnancy. IF NO THAT, WHAT HAS HAPPENED???
Amanda Kifferly, vice president for abortion access at The Women's Centers, told ABC News she's concerned about how these laws are potentially raising the stigma around abortion, and making patients feel like "it's actually a criminal experience."
“” A big thing we encounter is just misinformation and stigma keeps (patients) from going to their appointments.
"We don't want people to feel like they have to break a law in order to get safe care," she said.
Staci Fox, president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said that after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a so-called "heartbeat" ban, "there was a lot of media headlines speculating about the impact of the bill and speculating about criminalization of women, and what we started hearing was a lot of fear."
It got to the point where Planned Parenthood Southeast set up an automated message on their call line just to say abortion is still legal and their doors are open.
"We want to make sure everyone in this country knows what's going on," said Fox. "But at the same time, I don't want a single person to be feeling scared and alone and abandoned, and thinking about doing something, when they can come in and get something safe and legal."