Regulating Away Abortion in Texas

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The Texas Legislature is back to doing what it does best, threatening women, the poor, and health care providers, all under the guise of preserving women's health safety.

Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) filed SB 537 which states that every abortion provider must also be compliant as a licensed ambulatory surgical center. It was voted out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee yesterday with a 5-2 vote.  

Senator Deuell continually emphasized that this bill was only about women's safety, yet there is no outcry, or any real evidence to suggest that abortion providers are currently unsafe or harmful. But Senator Deuell did mention in committee yesterday, “I make no secret of the fact that I don't think abortion should be legal.” His intentions are perfectly clear.

The burden of making a clinic a licensed ambulatory surgical center is abundantly clear. It was speculated in committee yesterday that the cost to a small clinic could be well over $1 million to support the 117 pages of regulations in statute defining an ambulatory surgical center. Even though Deuell insists this bill is about safety, if the health care centers can't afford these burdensome changes and cannot provide care anymore, then no woman is safe, just burdened with the extra travel, time, and cost to get care. It is estimated by Planned Parenthood that the number of clinics would drop from 42 to only 5 throughout the entire state.

Yet this restriction is already in place for clinics in Texas that provide abortions past the 16 week mark. This law was passed during the 2003 legislative session, and significantly limited the access for women to have safe abortions. According to an impact study by Ted Joyce and Silvie Colman, “the number of abortions performed in Texas at or after 16 weeks' gestation dropped 88% from 3.642 in 2003 to 446 in 2004, while the number of residents who left the state for a late abortion almost quadrupled.” The study also showed that the average distance a women had to travel for some abortion procedures increased from 33 miles to over 250 miles.

The state also has extensive regulations on the procedure itself. Remember the ultrasound bill last session? These health care centers that provide abortions also must have a licensed physician and nurse on staff and must follow rigorous requirements that are then reported to the Department of State Health Services.

The Legislature also cut two-thirds of the funding for the state's family planning program, forcing 55 health care clinics to close. Women in Texas are facing a more dire situation each year the Texas Legislature decides to pass these misguided ideological and fiscally unsound laws.

This bill will do nothing to advance women's health, but it will drive up the cost of women's health care which inevitably drives up the risk of unsafe medical procedures, not the other way around.

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