February 19, 2014 — Texas health officials on Friday closed a Houston abortion clinic after a physician there failed to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as required under a new state law (HB 2), Texas Public Radio reports (Poppe, Texas Public Radio, 2/17).
The disciplinary action against A Affordable Women's Medical Center and its medical director, Theodore Herring, are the first since the law took effect Nov. 1. The law requires physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles that offers obstetrical or gynecological services.
The Department of State Health Services and the Texas Medical Board said Herring violated the law by performing 268 abortions between Nov. 6 and Feb. 7. The Texas Medical Board also temporarily suspended Herring's medical license.
Inspections and 'Plan of Correction'
During an unannounced health department inspection of the clinic in December, Herring acknowledged he was providing abortions without having hospital admitting privileges. He still had not obtained admitting privileges when the department performed a second unannounced inspection in February.
Herring, who has been a licensed doctor for nearly 40 years, had submitted a "plan of correction" that cited an "admitting arrangement" he had with two other doctors and said that he would be obtaining the privileges himself, with an expected "complete date" of August 31. However, Texas officials told him the plan was inadequate.
Whole Woman's Health spokesperson Fatimah Gifford said that the clinic's closing is part of a "statewide effort, through medically unnecessary provisions, to drive [abortion] providers out of business." WWH is a plaintiff in a lawsuit over the admitting privileges requirement.
Meanwhile, Texas Alliance for Life Executive Director Joe Pojman praised the state for "enforcing the law as the legislature intended" (Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 2/15).