Texas' sweeping abortion restrictions back in court as providers seek to minimize the damage already done

The fight continues as reproductive health providers in the state bring a new lawsuit against HB2

By Katie McDonough
April 3, 2014 1:59AM (UTC)
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The remaining provisions of Texas' sweeping abortion law are set to take effect in less than six months, threatening to further compound an already devastating health crisis in the state. But reproductive health providers announced Wednesday that they would be filing a new lawsuit targeting two provisions of HB 2 in an effort to keep as many providers open and running as possible.

The first suit challenges the requirement that providers renovate or build new facilities in order to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC).


In a statement on the lawsuit, Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller explained that HB 2 has already forced her to shutter two of the four clinics Whole Woman's Health operates in the state; the ACS requirement will likely force her to close the remaining two: 

By the estimates I have been given an ASC costs upwards of $450-$500 per square foot to build that is at least 2-3 million for a 5,000 square foot facility. In fact, the most recent ASCs built to provide abortion care in Texas were between 6 and 7 million dollars. ASCs are designed to provide same-day surgical care for surgeries that were formerly done in hospitals, typical day surgeries such as ACL repair, cataract surgeries, Bunion surgery, and laparoscopy – all surgeries requiring anesthesia, multiple physicians, incisions and moderate complexity.  In these cases ASCs are a convenient and cost-saving alternative to hospital-based surgeries. This is important: ASCs were never intended to increase costs or to be used for care that could be provided in more basic clinic or doctor’s office settings.  And yet, that is what our politicians now claim--with no basis in science or medical evidence--that one of our safest medical procedures should be done in a more expensive setting.

Whole Woman’s Health could attempt to raise millions of dollars to build ASCs, and use precious funds needed for direct service care to women in unnecessary construction projects;  but let me be clear here, providers repeated efforts for compliance to ever increasing regulations in Texas over the years have gotten us nowhere. 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.

The lawsuit also seeks to a court order to protect two clinics -- Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Health Services in El Paso -- from the requirement that providers at these clinics obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. These clinics are among the last offering abortion care in their communities. In the Rio Grande Valley, people seeking abortion care and other vital reproductive health services must make at least a five hour round trip to access basic medical care.

Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the suits are intended 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.


“If these legislative attacks on women’s health care continue to take effect, fewer than 10 clinics will be available to provide abortion care toTexas’s 13 million women. Many women will suddenly face a round trip as far as 1,000 miles from their homes to obtain abortion care in their own state. There is no question that the politicians who passed this law intended this as the final blow in their assault on women’s constitutional right and ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy in Texas."

Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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