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Texas' abortion laws are changing how people date in the state

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Dating may look a lot different now in states where abortion is now effectively banned. Dating now tends to include conversations even before the first meetup about contraception and values. Audrey McGlinchy with member station KUT in Austin reports.

AUDREY MCGLINCHY, BYLINE: Amanda Phillips has an image she tries to project in online dating.

AMANDA PHILLIPS: Cute, progressive single mom in Austin, Texas - I don't know.

MCGLINCHY: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: (Laughter).

MCGLINCHY: Amanda opens her profile on a dating app she uses. Users can respond to prompts and upload photos.

PHILLIPS: A picture with my friends - you have to have that.

MCGLINCHY: You have to prove you have friends.

PHILLIPS: Right. A little video where I show my butt - you're welcome.

MCGLINCHY: Amanda is 28 years old. She dates both men and women, and she says living in a state where abortion is now effectively illegal has raised the bar for which men she'll date and sleep with.

PHILLIPS: When I'm dating a man, I have to ask myself, am I worth more than $10,000 to them?

MCGLINCHY: Why is that the number?

PHILLIPS: Because that's the bounty for abortion in Texas. And so now that number is just in my head. I can't get it out of my head.

MCGLINCHY: Amanda is talking about Senate Bill 8, which went into effect in Texas last year. The law allows anyone to sue someone they believe helped a woman get an abortion. If the lawsuit is successful, the plaintiff can be rewarded up to $10,000. Now, you can't sue the person who got the abortion, but SB 8 makes Amanda feel like there's a bounty on her body.

PHILLIPS: I honestly haven't found many men that I trust who put me above that imaginary bounty.

MCGLINCHY: Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the ban on abortion in Texas has gotten even more restrictive - and so have the unwritten rules of dating, particularly for many women who date men.

Hi. Are you Annie?

ANNIE FICHTNER: Yeah.

MCGLINCHY: Hi.

Annie Fichtner lives with her two cats in Austin. As she sits on her couch, she remembers a talk she had last summer with a guy she'd been dating for about a month. After he told her he only uses condoms if a woman asks, she questioned him about what he'd do if she got pregnant.

FICHTNER: And I think that's, like, a conversation that I haven't necessarily thought to have to have because I have the power to do whatever I want with my body, and it doesn't matter what he thinks.

MCGLINCHY: But now she says it does matter what a man thinks about whether she gets an abortion.

FICHTNER: It's going to be quite the process if I need to - especially, like, financially. Are you prepared to help out with that?

MCGLINCHY: For Texans, getting an abortion now means traveling to another state, an expense some can't afford. This all has Annie rethinking the best way to prevent pregnancy and questioning whether using condoms and tracking her fertility is enough.

FICHTNER: I think it's making a lot of people, like, second-guess their methods of birth control, the types of people that they choose to sleep with, that they go on dates with.

MCGLINCHY: This is something Madison Wise has been hearing a lot in sessions. She's a therapist in Austin who works with people in their 20s and 30s, and she says being more selective early on can feel like a lot of work, but could help people find compatible partners more quickly if that's what they're looking for.

MADISON WISE: There might be a little bit of a higher turnover rate of first dates that just don't go anywhere else, which is not a terrible thing in the long run. But yeah, it does take some of that fun carelessness out of it.

MCGLINCHY: Wise says many of her clients say they want men to take more responsibility for birth control. Mike Arendt is one of those guys. He's 36 and doesn't want kids. He got a vasectomy right after Roe was overturned. And he puts this fact right there on his dating profile among the list of reasons to date him.

MIKE ARENDT: Not a murderer, good at cooking. I keep my toenails trimmed. Not a cop, vasectomy, great sense of humor.

MCGLINCHY: His vasectomy is what people comment on.

ARENDT: Some women have been like, yeah, I was actually really attracted to the fact that you had a vasectomy, which is something interesting. I actually did not expect that.

MCGLINCHY: Mike tells people who comment on his profile that in addition to not wanting kids, he got a vasectomy because he doesn't think women should be the only ones worrying about birth control. This really opens the conversation.

ARENDT: That's usually a good entry point for conversations about shared values and things like that.

MCGLINCHY: Back at Amanda's - she's the cute, progressive single mom - it's a Friday, and she's going through her closet to find something to wear on two dates that weekend.

PHILLIPS: Excuse my messy room.

MCGLINCHY: She holds up a bright yellow dress.

PHILLIPS: It goes into, like, a deep V, and then it has a cutout in the middle. And I know I look incredible and feel incredible in it. And honestly, like, a lot of people don't deserve to see me in this dress.

MCGLINCHY: As excited as she is about what she'll wear, Amanda says living under an abortion ban makes dating even more exhausting than usual. She says having to scrutinize people more, weeding out those you're not sure you can trust - it wears you down.

PHILLIPS: And you're like, I'm just going to watch a movie and go to bed.

MCGLINCHY: Amanda did end up going on both dates and said she had fun. She's planning a second date with one of the men. Though Amanda, who's bisexual, says she has been dating a lot more women since Roe was overturned. For NPR News, I'm Audrey McGlinchy in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Audrey McGlinchy is the City Hall reporter at KUT, covering the Austin City Council and the policies they discuss. She comes to Texas from Brooklyn, where she tried her hand at publishing, public relations and nannying. Audrey holds English and journalism degrees from Wesleyan University and the City University of New York. She got her start in journalism as an intern at KUT Radio during a summer break from graduate school. While completing her master's degree in New York City, she interned at the New York Times Magazine and Guernica Magazine.