The rain comes down in sheets as Angie Hayes sits in her idling two-door Honda Civic, waiting. A man in a rain slicker and galoshes approaches her driver’s side window, and she rolls it down a crack to receive instructions. “Who are you here for ?” he asks, leaning his umbrella into the gap between his body and the car door. “We’re here to pick up Nicole,” she tells him.
He nods and scurries back inside the Houston Women’s Clinic, one of the few remaining abortion providers in the Greater Houston Area. The clinic is a small red-brick building that almost resembles a house, with a wall encasing its cramped parking lot, complete with a fence that rolls out to secure the property once everyone goes home. Every parking space is occupied, here and at another lot across the street.
After a few minutes, the man comes back out into the wet April heat and tells Hayes to circle the block—a line of cars has pulled up behind her Civic, and since Nicole will be a few minutes, they need the space. Hayes circles on a grid of one-ways, San Jacinto to Wentworth to Caroline and back around. The clinic is always busy like this, even worse on weekends, so she’s used to the routine.
“The rain has pushed away the protesters, but they’re usually here too, right at the gate,” she says, turning back into the parking lot and taking her place at the back of the line. Ahead of us, a young man, holding his jacket around a woman and steadying an umbrella in the air over her, gingerly helps her into his car.
Within ten or fifteen minutes, Hayes is back at the head of the line, and Nicole steps out, an escort protecting her from the rain with his own umbrella. They shuffle over to Hayes’s car, to safety.
After the door closes, Hayes asks her passenger, who’s just terminated her pregnancy, how she’s feeling. “Okay,” Nicole replies. It’s clear that she’s feeling a bit tender, but she’s surprisingly alert. At only five weeks along, she didn’t need much sedation for the procedure.
Nicole uses her manicured hands to push her thick, dark hair out of her face. The rain continues to come down as the car winds through the streets of downtown, finally pulling into the valet drop-off at the Hilton Americas, where Nicole’s staying while she’s in town from Dallas.
“Thank you so much for this,” she tells Hayes, locking eyes with her for a moment before stepping carefully out of the car.