At this Va. abortion clinic, abortion is illegal right down the road

A temporary signs hangs on the outside of the Bristol Women's Health Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023 in Bristol,Va., Residents in southwestern Virginia have battled for months over whether abortion clinics limited by strict laws in other states should be allowed to hop over the border and operate there. Similar scenarios are beginning to play out in communities along state lines around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Earl Neikirk)(AP/EARL NEIKIRK)

Two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively striking down the nationwide right to an abortion, the law surrounding abortion services in Bristol, Virginia, has become unique, to say the least.

Bristol is a city that includes portions of both Virginia and Tennessee.

While abortion remains legal in Virginia, it has since been banned in Tennessee, creating an awkward situation for an abortion clinic in Bristol that’s on the Virginia side of the city.

“It’s absurd,” said Karolina Ogorek, the administrative director of the Bristol Women’s Health Clinic. “There’s this invisible boundary that women are having to cross to access reproductive health.”

The June 24, 2022, ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization sparked legislative action, protest and numerous lawsuits — placing the issue at the center of politics across the country.

Virginia is the only state in the South that has not enacted new restrictions since Roe v. Wade fell.

“They drive a mile-and-a-half down the road, and what we do is illegal,” Ogorek said.

According to Ogorek, about 90% of the clinic’s patients are from states where abortion has been restricted or banned, including Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi.

“I think the biggest thing we have to do is reassure patients and let them know that it’s still legal to travel to Virginia to be able to access abortion services,” Ogorek said.

Abortion is now banned at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions, in 14 Republican-controlled states. In three other states, it’s barred after about the first six weeks, which is before many know they are pregnant.

Most Democratic-led states have taken actions to protect abortion rights, and become sanctuaries for out-of-state patients seeking care.

That’s changed the landscape of abortion access, making it more of a logistical and financial ordeal for many in conservative states. But it has not reduced the overall number of procedures done each month across the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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