Texas Democrats Block Bill To Add Building, Staffing Requirements for Abortion Clinics
April 29, 2013 — Texas Senate Democrats are blocking a measure (SB 537) that would require abortion clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers, the Austin American-Statesman reports (Lindell, Austin American-Statesman, 4/24).
The measure would require that abortion clinics adhere to the same regulations as the surgical centers, including requirements for flooring, ventilation systems and closets. The bill also includes requirements related to post-operative areas and staffing levels for personnel who could be available for emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/21).
Opponents are concerned that the requirements would cause abortion clinics to close. Only five of the 37 facilities in Texas that offer abortions are licensed as ambulatory surgical centers.
Senate rules allow 11 senators to block legislation from receiving a floor vote. State Sen. Kirk Watson (D) -- head of the 12-member Democratic Caucus -- said most Democrats are against the measure because of opposition from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
ACOG in a letter to lawmakers said the bill "does not promote the public health objective it claims to enhance -- the safety of women."
Watson said the bill's "apparent purpose is to reduce the number of facilities that can perform" abortions, adding, "The irony, and the sadness, is this would cause women to resort to unsafe alternatives."
State Sen. Bob Deuell (R), the bill's sponsor, said he plans to meet with Democrats and try to persuade at least one of them to support the measure, which would give him enough votes to bring the bill to the floor (Austin American-Statesman, 4/24).