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Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

Last Texas Clinic West of San Antonio Stops Abortions After HB 2 Confusion; More Private Physician Offices Might Offer Abortions

October 9, 2014 — The only abortion clinic in Texas currently open to the west of San Antonio has stopped performing abortions amid confusion following a federal appeals court ruling that allows the state to enforce a provision of an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Carlos Llorca, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency appeal on the clinics' behalf (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).

Confusion Over Ruling

Immediately following the ruling, Hilltop Women's Reproductive Center in El Paso stopped performing abortions and referred women to another Hilltop-operated clinic about 10 miles from the city in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services incorrectly told the clinic on Friday that it was exempt from the ruling and could continue providing abortions. According to the AP/Bee, the 5th Circuit panel's ruling had exempted a now-closed El Paso clinic, Reproductive Services, but not the El Paso Hilltop clinic.

The Hilltop clinic stopped offering abortions after learning it was not exempt. It will remain open to take phone calls and walk-ins, and will recommend that women seeking an abortion go to their New Mexico facility (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/7).

Texas Women Might Seek More Abortions From Private Physicians' Offices

In related news, the HB 2 ruling might cause more women in Texas to seek abortions from physicians' offices, the Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News reports.

According to the Texas Tribune/KHN, state law does not require a physicians' office to obtain an abortion license unless the provider performs more than 50 abortions per year. As a result, physicians' offices that do not have an abortion license are exempt from many of HB 2's provisions.

Dan Grossman -- principal investigator for the University of Texas at Austin's Texas Policy Evaluation Project -- said that abortions performed in physicians' offices might increase only slightly because few physicians currently perform the procedure.

However, Tony Dunn, a Waco ob-gyn and former steering committee chair for the Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, said that the recent clinic closures could prompt more physicians to begin offering abortions. He said, "We'll have to wait and see whether physicians in underserved areas are going to step up and include that as part of the services that they offer" (Ura, Texas Tribune/Kaiser Health News, 10/7).