August 20, 2015 — While antiabortion-rights efforts at the national level recently have focused on defunding Planned Parenthood, "the real fight is at the state level," where several states are working to impose restrictions similar to an antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) in Texas, the New York Times' "The Upshot" reports.
According to "The Upshot," Texas' HB 2 "require[s] clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards, and physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital," among other provisions. The Supreme Court has placed a temporary hold on the ambulatory surgical center requirement while it considers whether to hear a lawsuit filed against the provisions (Soffen, "The Upshot," New York Times, 8/19). There was debate as to whether the Supreme Court order also blocked the law's admitting privileges requirement (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/19).
The Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will hear the case by November. If the high court opts to consider the case, a decision would be released by June 2016.
Texas Targeting Abortion Access Via 'Stringent Licensing Requirements'
According to "The Upshot," HB 2's "effects in Texas show the degree to which regulations ostensibly about clinic quality and women's safety can reduce access to abortion and raise costs for women who choose the procedure."
Texas currently has 17 abortion clinics, down from 41 clinics in 2012, and the distance between the average county in the state and a clinic is 111 miles, up from 72 miles in 2012, "The Upshot" reports. By contrast, the national average for distances between state counties and clinics is 59 miles. "The Upshot" notes that the areas in Texas most affected by the restrictions are rural -- such as Lubbock and Midland -- where women have to travel more than 250 miles to access the nearest clinic. Overall, according to "The Upshot," about 20% of counties in the state "are more than 100 miles farther from a clinic today than they were in 2012."
"The Upshot" compares access to abortion clinics in Texas to access in Washington state, which has a similar population density but fewer abortion restrictions. "If abortion clinics were as common in Texas as they are in Washington, 79 Texas counties would be home to a clinic, up from seven today and 16 in 2012," "The Upshot" reports.
According to "The Upshot," seven of Texas' remaining 17 clinics are not able to meet HB 2's ambulatory surgical center requirement and will close if the high court rules in favor of the law or opts not to consider the case. As a result, women in the state likely would have to pay more for abortion care because services at the remaining clinics tend to be more expensive. Specifically, a woman would have to pay about 15% more for an abortion if the law stands, for a total of $701 not including secondary costs, such as lost wages and childcare.
The fight in Texas "over these stringent licensing requirements has become a new front in the abortion battle," "The Upshot reports, noting that "Mississippi, Louisiana and 26 other states have also passed ambulatory surgical center or admitting privileges regulations, and more are expected to raise the issues in their next legislative sessions" ("The Upshot," New York Times, 8/19).