On a conference call earlier today, plaintiffs of the second lawsuit challenging parts of Texas’ abortion restrictive law expressed their deep concern for women of the state suffering as a result of the law and the strain the legislation has—and will—place on the providers.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman’s Health, a network of reproductive health centers, described the regulations as “onerous” and directed attention to the impact on the abortion care landscape.
Of the four centers she operates in Texas, two have closed due to the law’s admit privileges requirements and she predicts the remaining two centers will close after the ASC rule goes into effect in September. With the new suit, she and her plaintiff partners are now hoping to grant new life to the shuttered Whole Woman’s McAllen center and soon to be closed Reproductive Services El Paso center by using a narrower “applied challenge” to the physician requirement. Highlighting what they see as a nonsensical rule, reproductive health advocates say that out of the roughly 30,000 abortion care patients seen at the El Paso and McAllen clinics, just two needed hospital admitting privileges.
“Over the past 10 years in Texas politicians have thrown up barrier after barrier to try to stop us from providing safe abortion care to women who need it and those barriers became nearly impossible to scale with the passage of HB2 in 2013,” she said. “It’s sad that we have to turn to the courts to fight this battle, but Whole Woman’s Health will do what it takes to do right by the women who need us across this state.”
Hagstrom Miller pointed to the high price tags associated with complying with ASC standards: a 5,000 sq. ft. clinic, for example, would need to spend between $2-$3 million for upgrades, finances that would likely bankrupt most clinics if attempted or at least, divert limited funds from basic services.
The requirements, said Hagstrom Miller, are “absolutely unnecessary” and hold no “basis in science or medical evidence.”
Whole Woman’s Health could attempt to raise millions of dollars and use “precious funds” meant for direct service care to women for the construction project that she and other health providers consider needless, said Hagstrom Miller, but legislators would soon throw up another roadblock.
“Let me be clear here, providers repeated efforts for compliance to ever increasing regulations in Texas over the years have gotten us nowhere,” she said. “Year after year providers undertake heroic acts to comply and comply and comply. Yet every year Texan women continue to face new barriers that make access to safe care nearly impossible.”
In 2012, Texas was home to 44 abortion care clinics; by 2013, when providers braced for the impact of HB2, that numbered fell to 34. After the law was enacted, there were 24 clinics in the state. Today, the number fluctuates between 20-24 (as some have been revived after securing privileges while others continue to shutter over time).
The initial suit is still in the works and plaintiffs are considering their options. To view a copy of the newly filed lawsuit, see below. -MT
Undeterred by a recent federal appeals court ruling that upheld Texas’ abortion law, reproductive rights advocates are continuing their fight with a second lawsuit against the law they describe as an, “unconstitutional legislative attack on women’s rights and health care.” This time, they plan to narrow their focus to save two clinics in underserved communities and battle an requirement that could leave Texas with as few as six abortion providers by fall.
Photo by Mary Tuma
While the initial lawsuit—
filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and other Texas abortion care providers— took on the overall provision in omnibus House Bill 2
that forces abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles away, the new suit hopes to secure an immediate court order blocking the rule for two specific providers, Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Health Services in El Paso, as the clinics are located in areas where abortion care is scarce to non-existent without their presence.
The center in McAllen recently shut its doors, marking an end to abortion access in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, a community already reeling from the devastating effects of family planning funding cuts, and the El Paso center may face a similar fate as its temporary privileges are expected to expire next month. The privileges requirement is oftentimes a hurdle for doctors as some (especially religious-affiliated) hospitals are hesitant to back physicians in the abortion care field, as the Current’s August 14 cover story previously reported
. And the results may mean unsafe, illegal and dangerous methods to obtain abortion access.
According to an embargoed release sent to press, the new lawsuit also brings forth a challenge to the section, set to go into effect this September, that requires abortion clinic facilities to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). Providers say those upgrades are costly, unnecessary and would force the clinics that survived the first part of the law to shut down due to high expense. The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with other health advocates, predict its impact will leave the state with fewer than 10 clinics to service a population of 13 million women. A woman west or south of San Antonio would be devoid of an abortion provider and many women would need to trek more than a thousand miles round trip to access abortion services, or, they write, cross state lines.
“We filed this lawsuit to stop the second-largest state in the nation from plunging millions of women back into the darkness and grave danger of illegal abortion that Roe v. Wade
was supposed to end,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a release.
“It is an affront to women’s dignity, endangering their health, well-being, and lives. It is an attack on the U.S. Constitution, and the rights it guarantees all of us to make our own decisions about our families without interference from politicians, and it must be struck down.”
The plaintiffs intend to officially file the suit later today. A press call on the lawsuit is expected this afternoon, check back for updates.
View a copy of suit here via Scribd:
TX Asc Complaint Final