July 24, 2014 — The number of abortions in Texas has dropped by 13% since provisions of a state law (HB 2) took effect, according to a Texas Policy Evaluation Project study published in the journal Contraception, the Texas Tribune reports (Edelman, Texas Tribune, 7/23).
The law includes four abortion regulations: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/30/13). Supporters of the law contended that it would make abortion safer, but opponents raised concerns that restricted access to the procedure would lead to more unintended pregnancies and self-induced abortions, the Tribune reports (Texas Tribune, 7/23).
For the study, researchers analyzed data from all licensed Texas abortion clinics between November 2012 and April 2014 (Grossman et al., Contraception, 7/22).
Overall, the researchers found that as the number of available clinics in the state dwindled, so did the number of abortions. However, the drop in abortions was not as large as the researchers expected, the Tribune reports.
The admitting privileges requirement contributed to a drop in the number of operating clinics, according to the Tribune. Before the law, 42 abortion clinics operated in Texas, and as of July 1, the number dropped to 20. The report estimates that the clinic closures increased the number of women of reproductive age who live farther than 100 miles from a reproductive health center from roughly 400,000 to 1.3 million (Texas Tribune, 7/23).
The researchers predicted that as abortion facilities are required to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers by September, about 752,000 women of reproductive age -- or 5.65% of all female Texans -- will live more than 200 miles away from a clinic. About 290,000 women live more than 200 miles from an abortion clinic now (Psencik, KVUE, 7/23). In addition, only six of the 20 clinics currently operating meet surgical center standards, according to the Tribune.
The report also found that the law's requirement limiting medication abortion to women who are seven or fewer weeks pregnant caused a 70% drop in such abortions.
Report co-author Daniel Grossman, a California physician, said, "There's no evidence that the safety of abortion has been increased by these restrictions," adding, "The provisions in this law were not based on any medical evidence."
He added that the reason why the decline in abortions was not steeper might be because the remaining abortion clinics are located in the state's population centers. Further, the report suggests that financial contributions and other support from abortion-rights groups helped blunt the law's impact.
However, Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman's Health said she is worried abortions will continue to decrease because reproductive rights groups might no longer be able to financially support clinics. "A lot of those organizations are out of funds already, and the full extent of the law hasn't even taken effect," she said (Texas Tribune, 7/23).