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People in Louisville share their stories as laws banning abortion go into effect


Following yesterday's Supreme Court decision, there is no constitutional right to an abortion. That means access now depends on where you live. At least 11 states across the U.S. have either banned or partially banned access to abortion. Others are expected to follow suit. In Kentucky, almost all abortions are now illegal with no exceptions for rape or incest. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Louisville, where she's outside one of the only two clinics in Kentucky that provided abortion care until yesterday morning. A warning that we will discuss sexual assault in this piece, so it might not be appropriate for all listeners. Good morning, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning, Sue.

DAVIS: So describe where you are right now. And what is the scene like?

FADEL: I'm outside the EMW Surgical Center. It's the only independent abortion care clinic in Kentucky. We watched a man get out of his truck this morning - a couple more people arriving now, putting out signs abortion is murder, thou shalt not kill. And when we got off the plane and drove downtown yesterday, we came right here to talk to health care providers, to see who was outside. When I tried to open the door, it was already locked. The clinic is closed, no longer providing abortion care - at least for now - as they figure things out legally. The sidewalk outside is typically crowded with anti-abortion protesters trying to stop patients from entering and escorts who help patients try to enter the clinic safely. And it's largely empty.

DAVIS: So it sounds like this place has really been a battlefield for people who both supported and opposed abortion rights.

FADEL: Yeah. Right next to EMW is another clinic called BsideU for Life, and it actually shares a wall with EMW. The sign makes it look like a place to get pregnancy care and abortion counseling, but the goal of that clinic is to convince women not to get abortions, not to go inside EMW - or maybe I should say was because now abortions in almost all cases, as you said, are illegal. And those who provide that care would be committing a crime.

DAVIS: So what are the people you've spoken to saying about this decision?

FADEL: On one side, I heard celebration, a sense of victory over a decades-long battle finally won. And later today, there will be a festival to celebrate Kentucky's ban on abortion with games, a petting zoo and bounce houses. Now, Sue, polling shows the majority of this country believes abortion should be legal in all or most cases, but not here. Here, the majority of people, 57%, support a ban on abortion, according to a Pew poll.

And then on the other side, there's rage. There was a protest just a few blocks from here last night with hundreds of people holding signs demanding the separation of church and state, questioning the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and promising to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Pro-life is a lie. You don't care if people die. Pro-life is a lie. You don't care...

FADEL: So you can hear them saying, pro-life is a lie. You don't care if people die. And one of the protesters I met was Stephanie Aybare. And she was sitting, breastfeeding her 8-month-old baby. And this is what she said.

STEPHANIE AYBARE: I'm scared for all of the women in my life, scared for all of the teenagers, all the girls who, like, are now able to have babies. I'm scared for everybody. I'm just angry.

FADEL: She said she's worried that access to birth control is next. And right next to her, a 63-year-old woman asked me to turn off my recorder. The story she wanted to share was too sensitive. She said nearly 50 years ago, when Roe v. Wade first became law, she was 13. She had been repeatedly raped by a man who found her at a bus stop, and she felt powerless. She had no money, no family support, no ability to care for a baby, and she didn't want to have the child of the man who violated her. So she got herself to downtown Louisville and got an abortion. She says today, she feels like that powerless teen again. And she's thinking of all the 13-year-old girls who might be out there with a similar story. But she says today, they would be forced to continue the pregnancy.

DAVIS: NPR's Leila Fadel reporting from Kentucky, thank you.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.