October 14, 2014 — Texas' remaining abortion clinics are reporting an influx of phone calls from patients and longer wait times for appointments in the wake of a federal appeals court's decision to lift a hold against a state antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), the AP/U-T San Diego reports (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/12).
Earlier this month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling. The Center for Reproductive Rights earlier this month filed an emergency appeal on the clinics' behalf (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/9).
Only eight abortion clinics remain in the state, with two clinics each in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, and one clinic in both Austin and Fort Worth, the AP/U-T San Diego reports (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/12). The ruling also means that about 750,000 women of reproductive age, most of whom live in West Texas and near the Texas-Mexico border, are now more than 200 miles away from the nearest abortion facility, according to state abortion clinic lawyers (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).
More Calls, Longer Wait Times
In the week following the ruling, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas in Austin experienced seven times the normal rate of calls. Many calls came from women in Texas who lived far away from the facility (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/12).
Similarly, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokesperson Rochelle Tafolla said its Houston location had experienced four times more calls than usual the day after the court's ruling and about 170% more calls than normal the following week.
According to the Houston Chronicle, other facilities "reported smaller but significant spikes" in call volume.
In addition, wait times at Whole Woman's Health in San Antonio have increased from three hours to seven hours, according to clinic spokesperson Fatimah Gifford.
Concerns About Meeting Demand
According to the Chronicle, even if women were able to travel to receive abortion care, state data show that "it is unlikely that the remaining facilities [in Texas] could handle the load." Six of the remaining clinics perform a total of about 15,000 abortions annually, or 22% of the 68,298 abortions performed in the state in 2012.
Planned Parenthood San Antonio spokesperson Mara Robinson said, "Any future growth [in abortion procedures performed] would have to be slow and determined by what the needs are." She added, "We just don't know. This just happened, and we're really trying to see how we can grapple with it" (Rosenthal/Collette, Houston Chronicle, 10/11).