OKLAHOMA CITY — Hoodie pulled over her head, surgical mask shrouding her face, sunglasses covering her eyes, Rebecca Taub quickly veered through the gate of the Trust Women abortion clinic, parked her rented car in a secure spot, and ducked into the building through a private entrance.

She was safe.

The East Bay obstetrician and gynecologist takes those precautions to protect herself from the antiabortion activists outside the clinic’s 6-foot-high wooden stockade fence who yell snippets of Bible verses and wave signs saying, “We want to adopt your baby!” and “Okies kill their weakest and poorest!”

Taub, too, is an activist — one on the opposite front line of America’s reignited abortion wars.

For the next two days, the 36-year-old will perform two dozen abortions a day at Trust Women. She travels here at least once a month because the clinic can’t find enough local doctors to perform abortions in a state where the procedure is culturally shunned — and demand is surging.

Traditionally, most doctors have avoided politics. But to Taub this is work rooted in social justice and as urgent as ever, when the right to an abortion soon could virtually disappear in many states, even as 1 in 4 women terminates a pregnancy by the time she is 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“Abortion is political,” Taub said in the genial, matter-of-fact tone that dominates her fast-paced conversation. “There’s no way to uncouple providing this care from the political aspect of it. Politics have a direct impact on the work that we do every day.”

Dr. Rebecca Taub is greeted by a protester as she makes her way into the Trust Women clinic.

Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

The war over a woman’s right to an abortion will intensify Wednesday when the Supreme Court will hear a Mississippi case that could effectively gut the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. While Roe allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy before 24 weeks, after which a fetus could survive outside the womb, the Mississippi plaintiffs want to ban abortions after 15 weeks.

If they succeed, abortion could become virtually illegal in as many as 26 states, advocates estimate. Providers and public officials are preparing for California and other states to become havens where tens of thousands of women might come to safely and legally terminate their pregnancies.

That shift could mean that California could soon need the services of out-of-state doctors, too — to deal with a surge in demand.

Such a reality would also send many women — at least those who can afford it — to travel hundreds of miles from their homes in search of care.

That’s already the case in Oklahoma, where Taub works.

Before a Texas law took effect in September that bans nearly all abortions after an embryonic heartbeat is detected — usually around six weeks — and makes no exceptions for rape, sexual abuse or incest, the Trust Women clinic scheduled 20 to 30 appointments per day. Now it’s booking 50. Its rotating roster of out-of-town physicians like Taub has swelled from four or five to 17.

The volume of calls to the clinic has doubled, and a majority of the inquiries are from Texas. So many Texas women have booked appointments in recent weeks that many Oklahoma patients must drive more than two hours to Trust Women’s clinic in Wichita, Kan.

Clockwise from left: Medical assistant Ayla Clymer reads a government-mandated script to a patient calling to book an abortion appointment at the Trust Women clinic. A patient wears a blood oxygen monitor during her surgical abortion. Thank-you notes line a clinic wall.

Clockwise from left: Medical assistant Ayla Clymer reads a government-mandated script to a patient calling to book an abortion appointment at the Trust Women clinic. A patient wears a blood oxygen monitor during her surgical abortion. Thank-you notes line a clinic wall.

Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

If the clinic weren’t able to fly in doctors like Taub, clinic manager Kailey Voellinger said, “we would not be able to see patients.”

“It’s really difficult to find a provider that wants to work in a state or an environment that’s really hostile to their job,” Voellinger said. “People don’t want to get harassed when they go to the grocery store, right? People want to be able to just work and do their job and not be bothered.”

Taub, though, derives joy from how immediately her services impact a patient’s life.

“When you provide an abortion for someone, you are really changing their life in a really meaningful way,” she said. “They are in a situation that they know that they cannot be in, and you are able to go in and solve that problem.”

“When I see patients in a (Bay Area) clinic, it’s not the same way,” she said, as many of her California patients are seeing her for a variety of other reasons. Plus, she said, they are fortunate to live in a state where abortion is legal and easy to obtain.

But with that satisfaction comes risk. She, like many who provide abortion services in states that are politically and culturally hostile to the procedure, must act with discretion, from the choice of where she stays in town to how she travels in and out of the clinic. She rarely leaves the apartment the clinic rents for her. In the morning, she quickly dabs on makeup before throwing on leisure wear and driving to the clinic. After work, she does yoga, then eats takeout while watching episodes of “Shark Tank” as an escape from the emotional and physical intensity of the long days.

Dr. Rebecca Taub orders a drink on an August flight to Oklahoma City’s Trust Women clinic, where she performs abortions.

Dr. Rebecca Taub orders a drink on an August flight to Oklahoma City’s Trust Women clinic, where she performs abortions.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Until recently, her side work was unknown to even those close to her. Taub’s mother didn’t know she was traveling to less abortion-friendly parts of the country to perform the procedure until she read about it in The Chronicle in a September story about the Texas law.

“I didn’t want her worried about my safety,” Taub said. “And I knew that she would be concerned. I know that I am being as careful as I can be. I, you know, just didn’t want to worry her.”

Taub’s concerns aren’t theoretical. The Trust Women clinic has ties to some of the darkest moments in the abortion battle.

The first Trust Women clinic opened eight years ago in Kansas on the site of a facility run by Dr. George Tiller, a longtime abortion provider. Tiller was assassinated in 2009 by an antiabortion activist who shot the 67-year-old doctor in the head while he was serving as an usher inside his Wichita church. It was the second time he had been shot by an antiabortion zealot.

Five years ago, Trust Women opened the clinic in Oklahoma City, which clinic operators say was the largest major metropolitan city in the country without abortion services at the time.

Taub acknowledged that “safety is a concern for anyone working in any abortion clinic anywhere. But certainly, knowing that this clinic has a personal history of violence against providers does make me more nervous. It makes me more aware.”

Most of the time she is so busy treating patients that she can’t see the protesters when she’s inside the largely windowless building.

“But when I hear that there’s, you know, 20 people, 40 people outside, it definitely concerns me. I feel like it also sort of lights a fire in my belly,” Taub said. “The most important thing that we can do is to continue to provide this care, because if we stopped providing this care because we are afraid, that’s exactly what those who would wish ill upon us would want. It definitely is part of what motivates me to continue to do this work and continue to do it here.”

Security guard Louis Padilla keeps watch over the premises at the Trust Women clinic. Padilla says he previously was neutral on abortion but since working at the clinic has become a “strong advocate” after seeing the struggles women go through.

Security guard Louis Padilla keeps watch over the premises at the Trust Women clinic. Padilla says he previously was neutral on abortion but since working at the clinic has become a “strong advocate” after seeing the struggles women go through.

Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle


One of the women receiving care from Taub at Trust Women on a day in August was Maria, 24, who asked that her last name not be used because she doesn’t want her family to know about her abortion.

This is the second time Maria has terminated a pregnancy. The first was in 2015, when she was a senior in high school. Her deeply religious mother had erroneously told her that if she took contraceptives, she wouldn’t ever be able to have children.

She had an abortion then because she wanted to attend college — and went on to become the first person in her family to earn her degree. Now, she is working as a legal assistant for an immigration attorney and studying for the LSAT exam, in hopes of attending law school.

She was on birth control but got pregnant after she took a few months off for medical reasons. Her partner waited for her outside the clinic. He has been supportive, but she feared telling her family.

Dr. Rebecca Taub performs a surgical abortion, assisted by a medical student who declined to be named (left) and assistant Carissa Blethen.

Dr. Rebecca Taub performs a surgical abortion, assisted by a medical student who declined to be named (left) and assistant Carissa Blethen.

Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

“I could never tell them that this is something that I had to do, or even consult with them to make the choice because I know that they would say, ‘No, it’s not even an option,’” Maria said.