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El Paso Clinic Next On House Bill 2 Chopping Block

by: Genevieve Cato

Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 03:30 PM CDT

In El Paso, the two clinics that currently provide abortion services are eying the September deadline for the next stage of House Bill 2's implementation, the El Paso Times reports. That is when they will have to meet standards for Ambulatory Surgical Centers or close their doors. One of the two, Hilltop Women's Reproductive Clinic, faces certain closure. The other might be able to afford the changes necessary to continue to operate.

If these clinics should close in September, that would leave a city of over 673,000 people without access to abortion services, and would leave central Texas as the only area where those services are provided. As House Bill 2's continued impact leaves clinics in McAllen and Beaumont shuttered, residents of El Paso can only wait and see what will happen in their city.

More on clinic closures in El Paso below the jump.

Dr. Franz Thread is the owner of Hilltop Women's Reproductive Clinic. He says the changes required to make his clinic fit the requirements for an Ambulatory Surgical Center, including adding locker rooms and widening existing hallways, would cost millions of dollars. This is money the clinic simply doesn't have. "We're not going to retrofit and spend $2 million to become a surgical center," Thread explained.

This leaves one other clinic operating in El Paso: Reproductive Services. For a few months in 2013 Reproductive Services had to stop providing abortions due to a different provision in House Bill 2. Under the law, physicians are required to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the clinic to provide abortion services. Last week, their physician succeeded in acquiring "temporary privileges" at a hospital in El Paso.

Now that they have momentarily cleared this hurdle, the clinic faces the question of whether they can get their facility up to the standards required in September. Gerri Laster is the clinic's executive administrator. Laster is looking to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently considering legal challenges to House Bill 2, before making any judgments on whether her clinic will continue to operate.

There is some hope for residents in El Paso. According to an architect Laster had come to inspect the building, their hallways already meet the requirements for an Ambulatory Surgical Center. Only five clinics in the state met these standards when House Bill 2 was passed this summer, and unless clinics like Reproductive Services can find the money and time to fit their facilities to these standards by September, those will be the only five clinics left offering abortion services in the state.  

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