For Texas Women, Access to Abortion Keeps Dwindling, with No Hope in Sight

Categories: Healthcare

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Last year, Governor Rick Perry called the Texas Legislature to Austin for two special sessions, both focused on passing one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws. The new law, HB 2, put Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on the map after an 11-hour filibuster. It also began to unravel the ability for women across the state to access safe, legal abortion.

That pace of that unraveling is quickening. Last week, The Austin American Statesman reported that over a third of the state's abortion clinics had closed following the passage of HB 2, leaving only 24 clinics (and counting) in the entire state. And the Rio Grande Valley region made national news last week as the final two abortion clinics for the area, located in McAllen and Beaumont, closed their doors.

"Thousands of women will be denied local access to safe and professional abortion care for the first time since Roe v. Wade. For far too many, abortion continues to be legal in the state but in reality is simply out of reach," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, the organization that operated the two clinics.

Whole Woman's Health also operates a clinic in North Texas, where HB2 is rapidly making access to abortion is more difficult. The Fort Worth-based Whole Woman's Health Clinic performs between 80 and 100 abortion procedures per week, and even that isn't meeting the demand. Whole Woman's Health Clinic is one of only two abortion clinics in Fort Worth, and there are a total of only six clinics serving North Texas' 2.5 million women.

Fort Worth's Whole Woman's Clinic may also be in danger of closing. HB2 requires doctors who perform abortion procedures to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and mandates that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. The Fort Worth Planned Parenthood abortion clinic is an ambulatory surgical center, but Whole Woman's is finding it much more difficult to receive that designation. In order to continue services, they will need to find an ambulatory surgical center that will allow them to perform procedures there, or make costly upgrades to their facilities.

"The costs for ambulatory surgical centers are significant," said Whole Woman's Health spokeswoman Fatimah Gifford. "This means that clinics will have to pass these costs onto patients. Waiting times have increased, and the demand for abortion procedures means that not everyone will get an appointment. It also means that some clinics will close because they weren't able to find or become an ASC."

People far and wide need to come to Dallas-Fort Worth to access abortion care, along with the thousands of women living just a few hours north, east, or west of the city. Merritt Tierce, executive director of the Dallas-based Texas Equal Access Fund, said she fields calls from cities as far as Lubbock, Amarillo, Odessa and Midland.

"Women get online to find an abortion clinic, and they don't find one in their area. They've all closed. They find that Dallas is the closest place for them to go," said Tierce. For patients as far away as Lubbock or Brownwood, this means spending money on travel and hotels, and missing a lot of work.

Getting an abortion in Texas means several trips to a clinic, most of which critics of HB2 and other restrictive abortion laws consider unnecessary. If a woman needs a medical abortion, commonly referred to as "the abortion pill," she can expect to visit a clinic four times. Surgical procedures require two visits with a physician, and all abortion procedures are subject to a statutory 24-hour waiting period.

With women's options dwindling, clinics are busier and more thinly stretched than ever. Some are open seven days a week. In Dallas, both Abortion Advantage and Southwest Women's Choices, two of the city's four clinics, are open six days a week.

Someone women opt not to have an abortion at all.

"They can either figure out how to pay for the procedure and jump through the hoops, or they can carry a pregnancy to term that they don't want," Whole Woman's Health's Gifford said. "You also never know what desperate measures people will take if they are in desperate situations."

Merritt Tierce's group, TEA Fund, helps women deal with some of the financial burden caused by HB2. Through private donations, TEA Fund provides financial assistance to women who are unable to pay for abortion procedures. Like the clinics, TEA Fund is also struggling to meet the need.

"Our hotline is only open three hours a day, and in that time we field 30 calls. We try to call everyone back, but most days we can only help two or three people because our financial resources are extremely limited," Tierce said. "We're doing extreme triage out here. It's bleak."

The new rules also have been difficult for the doctors who provide abortion services. Most abortion providers also maintain busy obstetrics practices, which makes shouldering an increased workload at the abortion clinic difficult. Clinics are struggling to recruit new doctors to come to Texas because of the restrictions on providing abortions. Many providers fear that they could be putting themselves and their families at risk of violence by moving themselves to Texas. "You'd have to be a crazy, radical pro-choice activist to come provide abortions here," Tierce half-joked. "If there are any out there, though, we need you."

Whole Woman's Health, Planned Parenthood, and other clinics joined together to sue the State of Texas after the passage of HB 2. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled parts of the law unconstitutional, but the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals immediately issued a stay that allowed the law to go into effect after an appeal from Attorney General Greg Abbott.

For now, the clinics play a tenuous waiting game with their budgets and the courts while trying to provide abortions to Texas women. When the ambulatory surgical center requirement takes effect in September, there could be as few as six clinics in the entire state of Texas. In Dallas, only Southwest Women's Choices meets the law's requirements, along with the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fort Worth.

The fate of HB 2 sits in the hands of the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Many reproductive rights activists predict that the law will be upheld, and ultimately head to the Supreme Court. The bill's champion in the courts, Attorney General Greg Abbott, could also end up in the Governor's mansion come November.

Meanwhile, Tierce and TEA Fund are working to educate the women who call them for help about the political circumstances that have made abortions so difficult to obtain.

"Most people don't know about HB2," Tierce said. "It's a result of decades of work by the anti-choice movement to make these procedures impossible. I can't give someone the full history in a phone call, but we do think it's important to make those connections with women between the political and ideological movements and their personal circumstances."


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83 comments
ccass357
ccass357

even a dentist can get hospital privileges. why do you want poor women to end up in poor conditions?

panda.bear817
panda.bear817

Whole Woman's Health in Fort Worth Texas was actually able to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital so they more than likely won't be closing. 

Obviousman
Obviousman

Let's see.  Don't want a baby? Don't have sex.  Seems simple.

WonkotheSane
WonkotheSane

Sorry to nitpick, but since when was Beaumont in the Rio Grande Valley?

sanantoniodad
sanantoniodad

There are already desperate women out there. My son's mom knew Nidia Yolibeth Alvarado, who, if ya ever read the San Antonio news was the woman who tried to get an abortion in San Antonio but because she couldn't afford one, she tried to get a friend to do it for her, then when that failed she tried to do it herself. When that failed, she gave birth and killed the baby three days after she gave birth. It was in December when it happened. I remember when my son's mom told me about how desperate Nidia was back in August because she couldn't get enough money for the multiple doctor's visits required prior to an abortion and so she ended up missing the 20 week mark. It's pretty sad situation. The girl had two kids already and she was single. She was a great mother and always took great care of them but I guess she realized that she couldn't afford to support a 3rd child. The guy left her high and dry. Now she's in jail and the state took her two kids away. I really feel sorry for her situation. If she had gotten access to an abortion then she wouldn'tve gotten desperate and she would've been able to still care for her two other children. Now those kids are wards of the state and people think the mom is a monster. It could've been prevented if she had had access to an abortion which....last I checked was supposed to be a woman's right

rccrawford
rccrawford

"The fate of HB 2 sits in the hands of the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Many reproductive rights activists predict that the law will be upheld, and ultimately head to the Supreme Court. The bill's champion in the courts, Attorney General Greg Abbott, could also end up in the Governor's mansion come November."


In order to enforce Abbott's pro life agenda the 5th Circuit must violate scientific laws that show that Abbott has a choice. He may save innocent born babies, children and adults, or he may let these citizens die and save a zygote/embryo/fetus that may miscarry and never be born. The 5th circuit will lose its legitimacy if it rules in favor of Abbott. This is a life and death issue where taxpayers are sacrificed to save zygotes.


Search: "Scientific Abortion Laws"

ruddski
ruddski

The logo "Vagina Demagogues" is sexist and misleading, there is an assault on penises too, and men can be punished with a baby just as women can - often, men are forced into monetary servitude for 18 years for the two-to-tango act.

pak152
pak152

" over a third of the state's abortion clinics had closed following the passage of HB 2"

okay so why not do a little bit of investigate reporting about whether or not these "clinics" could meet then requirements for ambulatory surgical clinics. I suspect that is the real reason, that the abortion providers weren't willing to put out the money to bring the facilities up to code. they found it easier to close the facilities instead. If they were truly concerned about the health of the patients they service then they should have put forth the funding to meet the law's requirements

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

"Pro-lifers" are infamous for their hate speech and violence, including their murder of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas.  Pro-life, indeed.  


Bill O'Reilly:

“Tiller the Baby Killer.” Other comments by O’Reilly include: “[Tiller] destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.” He ‘s guilty of “Nazi stuff.” “This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union.” He “has blood on his hands.” He’s “a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida.” He operates a “death mill” and a “business of destruction.” “I wouldn’t want to be [him] if there is a Judgment Day.”---RH Reality Check

casiepierce
casiepierce

So the message to the hotline people should be "well, since abortions are just too hard anymore, then maybe you just shouldn't be getting yourself pregnant, young lady!" Because that line of reasoning worked so well before Roe v Wade.....

doublecheese
doublecheese

Why mention Beaumont for the RGV?  That's not even close.  San Antonio is a 3 1/2 hour drive from McAllen, and that's going the speed limit.  

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Thank you for acknowledging that the agenda is the continuation of hundreds of abortions per day, not "women's health".


BTW, Brownwood is a shorter drive to DFW than Beaumont is from the RGV.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@ccass357 It can be a lengthy, drawn out process and some hospitals require those with admitting privileges to bring a certain number of patients in to the hospital each year. Why would a doctor who provides abortions need to bring a patient into the hospital? Complications from abortions are very rare. The need for these restrictions was fabricated as a way to reduce access.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@rccrawford  Not "pro-life," pro-forced birth. These same people are pro-capital punishment and anti-entitlements for the same poor mothers whose situation they would exacerbate by forcing them to have children.

lecterman
lecterman

@ruddski Typical scumbag conservative: 

"Hey woman, you can't have an abortion-you're killing an unborn child!"  

then

"What? Child support? You shouldn't have gotten pregnant woman. Don't expect me to support YOUR mistake."

doublecheese
doublecheese

@ruddski  I think I would support severe punishment and an actual, real, "war on men" in these cases if it would make liberals shut up about this imaginary "war on women" . 

rccrawford
rccrawford

@pak152 There are more deaths in ambulatory surgical clinics than in abortion clinics. So is this law just a ploy to increase the deaths due to abortion? An increase in abortion deaths would be an advantage for pro lifers.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@pak152  The need for these clinics to meet those standards was fabricated. It was merely a pro-forced birth ploy to limit access.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Not one inaccurate statement listed.  Same can be said about Kermit Gosnell, and the Gosnell-like butcher they found in Houston last year.  It takes a special kind of sociopath to be an abortionist, especially the full term kind.  That's why majority of doctors refuse to perform them.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@casiepierce  

Is that the same as The Dear Abby Method of Birth Control?

Put the pill between your knees and keep it there.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@casiepierce  It actually did work a whole lot better.  Yes, there were unplanned pregnancies and illicit abortions, but the numbers today are staggering compared to back then.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@doublecheeseBecause in the article, the author stated "And the Rio Grande Valley region made national news last week as the final two abortion clinics for the area, located in McAllen and Beaumont, closed their doors."

Beaumont is not in the Rio Grande Valley.

Later in the article, a comment was made that people have to drive to DFW from as far away as Lubbock and Brownwood. 

I thought that the geographical error warranted comment.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

@PlanoDave  So you're informed opinion is that a pregnancy has nothing to do with a woman's health? Sorry to burst your bubble, but a woman's health is drastically impacted by a pregnancy. Next you'll be using pro-forced birth phrases like "abortion = the killing of a child."

Catbird
Catbird

@lecterman @ruddski Why not pass a law saying the baby daddy has to support his fetus until it's 21? Abbott s all about collecting child support from dead-beat-parents. Seems like a natural to me.

ruddski
ruddski

@lecterman

What in my post leads you to believe I'm a scumbag? I'm pro sexual freedoms for both men and women. I'm pointing out that men should and do support these sexual freedoms for obvious reasons, and our penises should be represented.

rccrawford
rccrawford

@doublecheese @ruddski You have a choice, you may save real live babies, children and adults or you may let them die and save fetuses instead. My guess is that you would let babies die, right?


Scientific Abortion Laws

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@CogitoErgoSum  Pregnancy certainly affects women's health.  However, none of the services providing maternity care have been affected.  Only the ones that offer the sole option of terminating the pregnancy.  Ergo (see what I did there), closing these clinics does not affect pregnancy care.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Cheat on Myrna once and it's over.  Most everything else is forgivable.

ruddski
ruddski

@Myrna

Well, we now have an idea of why your marriage to Luigi was a disaster. Shoulda gone with Hunts.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@ruddski  LIsten, you come home to an Italian with a jar of Ragu and he'll throw it at you.

ruddski
ruddski

@Myrna

And you're pretty feisty for an octogenarian Jew who "feels Italian" when she buys a jar of Ragu.

rccrawford
rccrawford

@doublecheese @rccrawford@ruddski People that have gotten very far know it is not a false dilemma. You won't get away with that fallacy.


You clearly have a choice, and that choice is to save a fetus or a baby. You do not have a choice to save both.

ruddski
ruddski

@rccrawford

I'm pro-life, pro-choice. I have no interest in your "scientific abortion" stuff. I just know that any law restricting sexual freedoms and rights is going to stay because of the scientific "Two-To-Tango" clause in the Bill of Rights.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@doublecheese  Who's agreeing to "up to the day of birth"?  We're talking about viable v. fetus here.  This is one example of the limitations that are attached to our rights.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @doublecheese  Name one.  I don't see one.  Most of them are opinions, but I don't see an opinion that is unwarranted.  Agreeing to perform abortions up to they day of birth will generally be frowned upon by decent people.

Daniel
Daniel

@casiepierce @doublecheese  That's because women somehow got the notion that having a healthy sexual appetite doesn't make them dirty little whores any more than it does men. This upsets guys like Rick Perry -- who insists on carrying a gun even while jogging. You do the math -- er, measuring. Don't make me do it! Maybe if you use centimeters it will make him feel better. 

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@doublecheese  Gotcha.  Sorry, bro.

Plus, how can you drive the speed limit from San Antonio to McAllen?  That is one boring ass drive.  Almost as bad as Dallas to Lubbock.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@CogitoErgoSum  Child, please.  Do you really think that the effect of those two clinics closing had a material change to the number of locations offering maternal care?

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