The day Alan Braid opened his abortion clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last August, he saw a waiting room filled with newly arrived patients from Texas, some with suitcases on their backs. Several months later, Dr. Braid’s daughter, Andrea Gallegos, drew a similar crowd to the opening of his abortion clinic in Carbondale, Illinois, with patients who came from distant states to terminate pregnancies. The life of the father-daughter duo changed abruptly when on June 24, 2022, a year ago this weekthe Supreme Court of the United States annulledor Roe v. Wade and eliminated the right to abortion throughout the country.
After the historic sentence, 14 states banned most abortions. Dozens of clinics closed, forcing patients to travel thousands of miles to terminate pregnancies. Braid and Gallegos’ clinics in San Antonio, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma had to close. Braid, a provider of abortion services since 1972, and Gallegos, manager of their clinics, they decided to uproot their families in Texas to open clinics in New Mexico and Illinois, two states where abortion remains legal.
After roe, Reuters documented days spent in airports and weeks living out of suitcases. Braid, 78, has spent fewer afternoons watching his grandchildren play the golf simulator in his garage, and Gallegos, 40, has missed taking his kids to karate lessons.
Abortion has long been a focus of political division in the US, with opponents of abortion concerned about preserving life from conception and defenders of the right to abortion claiming the bodily autonomy of women.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in October 2022 showed that 56% of Americans support legal abortion in all or most cases. Braid and Gallegos have faced angry protesters at their clinic doors, slights from local anti-abortion contractors and the logistical obstacles to opening businesses hundreds of miles from their San Antonio homes.
The company was one of the few persecuteds. Of the 27 new clinics that opened last year in states with lax abortion laws, six are operated by providers who have moved from states that now ban abortion, according to data compiled by Middlebury College economics professor Caitlin Myers. Two of them are from Braid. “I don’t think I ever really thought about quitting,” says Braid, who made headlines when she defied Texas law in September 2021. by performing an abortion on a patient who was more than six weeks pregnant. “My motivation,” she explains, “is to provide a safe place for women who have made the decision to terminate their pregnancy to go.”
Daughter moves to Illinois
Gallegos was in high school when he ran into an anti-abortion website that called her father a murderer and indicated the direction of his work. She had grown up admiring her father’s OB/GYN work. Upon realizing the risk she faced in choosing to perform abortions, suddenly that job seemed even more important.
In 2020, she became the executive administrator of Braid’s abortion clinics in San Antonio and Tulsa. “It was great to have her on board,” Braid recounts, “she’s very passionate.” The last year has put Gallegos’ passion to the test. In November, she launched the abortion clinic in Illinois, one of the states that has become a destination for people seeking to terminate a pregnancy due to its protective laws and central location. In Illinois, abortion is legal until the fetus can survive outside the womb.usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy, and later if the patient’s health is in danger.
The blue-roofed one-story building in Carbondale has drawn patients from Missouri to Florida, Gallegos says. Braid, her father, is one of the doctors who work there. She flies almost every week to the new location, relying on video calls to see her husband and children, ages 4, 6 and 18, in San Antonio. On a trip joined by Reuters, he sat for hours on a grounded plane in Oklahoma City as a tornado and hail storm raged outside. The flight arrived in St. Louis in the middle of the night, where she had ramen from the hotel lobby and slept for a few hours before driving to work in Carbondale the next morning.
In July, his family will leave Texas and move to Illinois. The transition is bittersweet. Seeing his old moving house and inviting family and friends over for one last gathering got Gallegos excited. “Now I know more than ever that this is exactly where he was supposed to be,” Gallegos said.
Father moves to New Mexico
In August, Braid delivered an abortion pill to Caitlyn, a 19-year-old mother of two from Houston who had traveled to her Albuquerque clinic. The sound of construction-in-progress drilling rang out as she softly explained how the pill would work.
Caitlyn, a restaurant hostess, breaks down in tears as she remembers how scared she had been on her flight to New Mexico, the first time she left Texas. She hadn’t told her mother where she was going because her mother didn’t approve of abortion, but she, Caitlyn, was determined not to have a third child. “It would be too much,” she explains. It was the first week of the clinic. An Oklahoma college student, five weeks pregnant, drove nine hours overnight to make her appointment. A 32-year-old nurse from New Orleans arrived a day late due to flight delays.
To open the clinic, Braid and his staff had to obtain new medical licenses and relocate their families. During the renovation of the building, some anti-abortion contractors refused to work with them, Braid said. Anti-abortion activists resented that New Mexico had become a haven for those seeking to terminate pregnancies. The state allows abortion throughout the pregnancy. “It’s definitely not what you want your state to be known for,” says George Sieber, 61, as he protests outside a nearby abortion clinic.
Like her daughter, Braid spent months commuting from San Antonio to work. But he also finally decided to leave Texas. In May, Braid and his wife moved into his home in New Mexico. He plans to set up his golf simulator in the garage, so it’s ready for his grandkids when they visit.