August 12, 2014 — Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) and eight members of the City Council on Monday called on the Texas Legislature to repeal a state law (HB 2) that threatens to close most of Texas' abortion clinics and urged Congress to pass the Women's Health Protection Act (S 1696, HR 3471), News 92 FM reports.
The officials made the comments in a letter sent to members of the Texas Legislature and U.S. Congress.
Criticism of HB 2
The letter said, "When the Texas legislature passed HB2, we knew Houston residents could be harmed by it," adding, "Houston would become one of the very few places left to get an abortion (and in some cases, any reproductive health care) in Texas," which would put "women's health and lives ... at risk" (De Hoyos, "News 92 FM," 8/11).
An ongoing trial in federal court is testing the constitutionality of a provision in HB 2 that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Closing arguments are set for Wednesday, and the court should issue a ruling within two weeks, according to Politico's "Pulse" (Villacorta, "Pulse," Politico, 8/12).
Earlier this year, a panel of three judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld two other provisions in the law, ruling that they do not unduly burden abortion rights. One provision requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The other provision mandates that providers follow FDA protocols when administering medication abortion, rather than the evidence-based regimen that is commonly used (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/4).
Support for Women's Health Protection Act
In their letter, Parker and the council members also urged Congress to pass the Women's Health Protection Act. The bill would prohibit states from unconstitutionally restricting reproductive health care, according to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby (News 92 FM, 8/11).
"Because women of reproductive age deserve equal access to comprehensive reproductive health care, we believe federal legislation limiting government interference with the delivery of the full range of reproductive health services is necessary to ensure that women in all states have equal access to these services," the letter said ("Pulse," Politico, 8/12).