On Friday, August 16th, Planned Parenthood of West Texas announced that it would be closing its clinic in Midland. This comes as yet another blow to women's access to reproductive healthcare in the wake of the new omnibus abortion bill signed into law by Governor Perry. Though clinic closures were in no way unexpected, each announcement cements the grim reality facing women in Texas: safe, legal abortion, and other reproductive healthcare services, will become much harder to obtain.
DeAnn Lopez at the local CBS affiliate reports that local opinions are mixed. Kara Stone, a Midland resident with epilepsy who relied on Planned Parenthood for reproductive healthcare services, is angry. “I think it's awful,” she said,”I don't think we should lose our healthcare benefits because abortions are done [at the clinic].” Father Woodruff, who practices at a local church, sees this as a reason to celebrate. He blames Planned Parenthood's dogged insistence on providing abortion services as the real reason residents like Stone are losing their healthcare provider: “I blame that on Planned Parenthood, they could've continued doing that kind of work if they just decided we're not going to do abortion,” he stated.
According to Father Woodruff, there are plenty of other alternatives in the community for people like Kara Stone. Women can turn to the Texas Pregnancy Care Network or the Midland Life Center for help. Sound a little fishy? That's because these centers don't actually provide healthcare. But to his credit, Father Woodruff probably doesn't think Planned Parenthood does, either.
More on the impact of this loss on Midland residents and the services available at these “alternative” providers after the jump. The Midland Life Center offers Prevention, Intervention, and Restoration services. The Prevention track offers abstinence only education to children starting in the fourth grade, encouraging students to make “healthy” choices that are based in a specific religious belief system. Yes, because abstinence only education really helps to prevent pregnancy. Intervention, as you may have guessed, refers to intervening in women's decisions to seek abortion services. Though some of the information provided about abortion procedures is surprisingly accurate, most of it is focused on the horrors and risks of abortion and the irresponsible nature of those providing them. M.A.R.Y. Mentorship is the Restoration program. This pairs teen mothers – from ages 13 to 19 – with mentors who teach them how to be the best “Christ-centered” parents possible.
The Texas Pregnancy Care Network is actually a support organization focused on helping Crisis Pregnancy Centers and programs that focus on adoption as an alternative to abortion. Crisis Pregnancy Centers are notorious for providing medically inaccurate information and shaming women out of their decisions to have abortions.
Neither of these organizations offer reproductive healthcare services. Their entire focus, like that of HB 2 and its opponents, is abortion. As is often the case, the clinic in question's services were much more broad. According to an article published in the Odessa American:
…the 40-year-old center offer[ed]a range of health services for more than 2,000 low-income women a year, including cervical-cancer screenings, STD tests, family planning and other health services.
Karen Rodriguez is an opponent of abortion who lives in Midland. She said, “I'm happy they shut it down…they don't teach what they need to teach, and I believe in pro life.” Other residents of Midland who will now have to drive hours to San Angelo for abortion services will undoubtedly be less than thrilled with this new obstacle to reproductive healthcare access.
The destructive impact of Texas' new omnibus antiabortion bill is becoming clear. This closure of the Midland clinic is a devastating blow to women's health in West Texas. Unfortunately for women across the state, this is only the beginning.
You can find Planned Parenthood of West Texas' full statement online here.