September 6, 2013 — At least four abortion clinics in rural Texas are closing because of tighter restrictions on facilities that offer the procedure, and three others likely will close, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Clinic administrators point to a new state law as one of the main reasons for the closures. One of the law's provisions requires that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, but many doctors have been unable to obtain the privileges. The requirement takes effect Oct. 29 (Martin, Dallas Morning News, 9/5).
The law also bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, requires that abortions be performed at an ambulatory surgical center and mandates that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/19).
Clinics must meet the ambulatory surgical center requirement by next September. Clinic administrators say the standards require costly changes that some cannot afford.
Clinics in Bryan, Harlingen, Midland and San Angelo have announced that they plan to close. Three of the four clinics are Planned Parenthood facilities that provide both abortion and family planning services.
According to Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, three additional clinics also expect to close.
Two other clinics have closed so far this year, state records show. The closure of an additional seven clinics would mean 25% of the 37 abortion clinics in the state have shut down. Most of the expected closures are in smaller cities, fueling concern among abortion-rights advocates that women living in rural areas will have less access to abortion.
Debate Over Access
Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said, "This decrease, especially if it continues, makes accessing abortion more difficult because women have fewer options for abortion services and remaining facilities have increased caseloads."
Abortion-rights opponents lobbied for the restrictions, which they said would decrease abortions and increase clinics' health and safety standards. During debate on the law, state Sen. Glenn Hegar (R) -- a sponsor of the bill -- disputed allegations that clinics would close because of the restrictions, saying, "I firmly believe a large number of these clinics will come up to the standards" (Dallas Morning News, 9/5).