It’s been over a year since the controversial Texas law (House Bill 2) leading to abortion clinic restrictions passed, and the repercussions are starting to be felt throughout the state. The law, which was passed on July 18, 2013, created several new requirements, which abortion clinics need to meet to remain in operation. One requirement, which came into effect November 2013, called for clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a certain radius of the clinic. Since then, not all doctors could comply, and the number of clinics in Texas decreased by half from 41 to 20. The last restriction comes into effect on September 1 and requires that all clinics upgrade their facilities to make them ambulatory surgical centers. This will likely to lead to the closure of several more clinics.
This final requirement calls for clinics that do not currently meet its standards to renovate facilities to have a specific hallway width, establish full male and female locker rooms and include a janitor’s closet, among other things. Proponents of the law claim that these changes protect the health of women undergoing an abortion. However, Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, states that abortions are among the safest office-based procedures performed, with a low complication rate of under 0.05%. Therefore, she points out that the requirements are not linked to the safety of the procedure and are unnecessary.
According to Busby, since the number of clinics in Texas has dropped, women are having to wait longer in their pregnancy before they are able to have an abortion, and are having to travel greater distances, or even leave the state. Unfortunately, watchdogs are predicting that when the last requirement comes into effect in September, even more clinics will close, potentially bringing the number down to around 6 or 8 clinics in the state. Busby points out there are already no clinics in East Texas or in the Rio Grande Valley, and the one clinic left in El Paso is at risk of closure. Texas clinics have filed a lawsuit to stop the last requirement from going into effect, but if it fails, women in Texas may find it increasingly difficult to receive safe abortions. Other states across the country are trying to pass similar laws in an effort to restrict women’s access to healthcare.