Texas Senate Bill Would Add New Building, Staffing Requirements for Abortion Clinics

March 21, 2013 — The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday advanced a bill (SB 537) that would place new restrictions on abortion clinics, the Houston Chronicle reports (Fikac, Houston Chronicle, 3/19).

The measure would require that abortion clinics adhere to the same regulations as ambulatory or outpatient surgical centers, including requirements for flooring, ventilation systems and closets (CBS DFW, 3/19). The bill also includes requirements related to post-operative areas and staffing levels for personnel who could be available for emergencies.

State Sen. Bob Deuell (R) -- who co-authored the bill -- said it would only apply to clinics that perform more than 50 abortions annually. He intends to adjust the wording to clarify that the standards would only apply to clinics that offer surgical abortions. "My intent ... is only to protect Texas women who undergo this procedure" and not to limit abortion access or shut down clinics, he said.

Abortion-Rights Supporters Condemn Bill

Blake Rocap of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas argued that the stricter regulations would have the effect of forcing clinics to close (Houston Chronicle, 3/19).

In a statement, Danielle Wells -- a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas -- called the measure a "virtual ban on abortion" that does "absolutely nothing to protect women in Texas."

According to the PPGT, only five of the state's 42 abortion clinics are presently equipped to meet the stricter rules, and they are all located in metropolitan areas. Women located outside those areas would "face tremendous burdens to access safe, legal abortions," Wells said (CBS DFW, 3/19).