Tough TX Abortion Restrictions Reflect the Least Compassionate Interpretation of the Law

Here's how democracy works in Texas: Over 19,000 Texans wrote to the Department of State Health Services during the public comment period asking for existing clinics to be exempt from the new ambulatory surgical center regulations. Only 265 requested a strict version of HB 2 rules.

Last week the Texas Health and Human Services Commission released the final rules for the abortion restrictions passed this summer, and unsurprisingly, they reflect the least compassionate interpretation of the law.

To pour salt on the wound, the response section of the rules illustrates the DSHS cavalier disregard for women and trans men in rural areas who may not be able to afford the expensive, time consuming journey to a facility across the state. According to the document, "the lack of a nearby licensed abortion facility, though challenging, is not an absolute bar to even a low-income or rural-based woman."

According to the final rules, the ACLU, ACOG, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the League of Women Voters of Texas, the National Abortion Foundation, NOW, Planned Parenthood, 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund, Rise Up Texas, and Texas Democratic Women wrote the DSHS in addition to the thousands of Texans who weighed in during the public comment period.

The commenters urged the DSHS to only enforce ASC regulations that are pertinent to or would directly improve the standard of care for women seeking abortions. The most expensive building standards, like hallway size, room size and closet flooring, are simply not necessary for procedures that usually involve only taking a pill.

Texans also asked for exemptions for facilities providing only pill abortions and existing facilities.

Instead, the DSHS decided to adopt almost all of the irrelevant ASC standards.

Responses to public comments take up almost half of the rules document, where the department demonstrates its ignorance toward the people who will be most affected by the law. One response reads: "[T]he department is aware of no comments that explain how particular abortion-seeking patients will face unconstitutionally long travel distances, unconstitutionally long wait times, or unconstitutionally high costs for abortion services in any particular part of the State."

Perhaps the department should spend some time listening to messages from the Lilith Fund hotline.

In response to Texans' concerns that women in the Rio Grande Valley and rural areas are functionally being denied access to their abortion rights, the DSHS wrote that the free market will take care of women, poor people and people of color in due time:

Finally, if the demand for abortions in low-income areas of the state and areas remote from Texas's large cities is as great as commenters urge, one or more providers would find it profitable (or a non-profit would be able to operate within its means) by locating an ASC designed, built, and operated mainly to provide abortions and reproductive care at low prices at a place chosen to minimize the travel distance for a disadvantaged patient population.

No word on the rights of women in the area who will become pregnant while this fictional ASC is being built.


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