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Regressive TX Legislation Could Hinder 2/3 of Women Seeking Abortions, Says Study

As Texas approaches October 29 - the day that the HB 2 abortion restrictions are set to go into effect - it is important to grasp accurately the number of women and families who will be affected.

A recent study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas measured the number of women who would be denied access if one of the provisions, a requirement that doctors attain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, is implemented.

According to the study, one in three women seeking an abortion would be unable to attain a safe, legal procedure in the coming year under HB 2. That's 22,200 women for whom the state has made abortion practically impossible, many of whom live in rural and poor areas.

The provision in the new abortion restrictions requires abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges in a hospital that is 30 miles away or less.

The justification for the provision is unclear: If anything went wrong with the procedure, a doctor's lack of admitting privileges would not present an obstacle to emergency care of the patient. The patient would be able to enter into a nearby hospital regardless of whether her doctor has admitting privileges.

Once more, to clarify: Patients in emergency rooms do not have to wait for treatment until their own doctors to show up, because hospitals are big buildings filled with doctors. The provision accomplishes nothing but preventing licensed abortion practitioners from caring for their patients.

Religious hospitals are reluctant to extend admitting privileges to a doctor who performs abortions because they don't want to stir up controversy, Rep. Jessica Farrar said at a recent panel on the restrictions. Even non-religious hospitals could refuse to give a doctor admitting privileges for any arbitrary reason.

That's why the Texas Policy Evaluation Project is expecting one third of Texas abortion clinics to close.

According to the study, only seven of Texas' 254 counties would have abortion clinics. Twice as many women would have to drive over 100 miles to have an abortion.

Even if the remaining clinics operated at full capacity, women could pay for an abortion, and travel was not an issue, clinics would not be able to meet the needs of all Texas women seeking abortions. About one in three would still be turned away.

According to the lead investigator of the report, Joseph Potter, the lack of clinics would lead to delayed abortions and longer waits. Women who found out about their pregnancy early on may have to wait until the second trimester to get an appointment, eliminating the option for a pill abortion, which is less expensive and less complicated than a surgical abortion.

The 22,200 estimate is also a bit generous: It only accounts for the clinics closing due to admitting privileges. Two other provisions also go into effect on October 29 that make an abortion that much harder to receive: the 20-week abortion ban and the new rules for the abortion pill.

Women seeking a medical abortion would have to visit the clinic four times: First for a sonogram, then for the first pill, then for the second pill, then for a follow-up.

For a woman with low income living in a rural area, the new provisions could mean weeks of added time between the decision to have an abortion and the actual procedure. Between getting an appointment at a booked clinic, taking time off work, raising money for the procedure and a hotel room and childcare, driving for several hours to a clinic, and driving back, women will be forced to have abortions later in their pregnancy, or worse, seek unsafe "back alley" abortions.

On October 21, Judge Lee Yeakel will make a decision regarding a preliminary injunction on the laws.

Go to TX State Page
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