In a not unexpected but nevertheless terrible decision today, the US 5th Circuit Court ruled that the admitting privileges provision in HB 2 — the back-door abortion ban that passed the legislature over the summer — did not infringe sufficiently on the right to an abortion in Texas. The decision is available here.
The court claimed that HB2 “on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman” even as it is anticipated to close up to one third of abortion clinics across this geographically daunting state.
The map at right shows the dire consequences of the ruling — the orange area shows where it is already difficult to access abortion in Texas. And this map doesn't even reflect the most recent clinic closures. The anticipated future closing of up to a third of existing clinics will make this burden much greater, especially for those who are poor, without cars, or already have children.
Despite opposition from the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the three-judge panel evidently decided that driving hundreds of miles — potentially outside of the state — was a mere inconvenience for the privilege of living in Texas.
Y'all feel “safer” now?
More below the jump.Research indicates that the effect of HB 2 could close enough clinics and deny enough women and trans men access to the procedure to create a surplus demand of over 22,000 Texas women per year who are unable to exercise their right to choose.
The only minor ray of hope in the decision is that providers who apply for admitting privileges have until the hospital's response to continue practicing. However, for many areas of the state, doctors will not be granted these privileges.
Unfortunately, this will likely only slow the shuttering of clinics that happen to be within 30 miles of a hospital.
The case could get appealed to the US Supreme Court — yes, the same Supreme Court that is also ruling on whether or not a private enterprise has sufficient “religious freedom” to deny women insurance coverage of particular birth control methods its owners do not like.
First out with a statement excoriating the decision was State Representative Jessica Farrar, champion of reproductive health care access:
“The 5th Circuit's ruling is another setback for Texas women's health,” Representative Farrar said. “Requiring providers to have admitting privileges is medically unnecessary, yet it adds delay and expense to women seeking abortions. Moreover, the medical abortion provision, which requires doctors to follow an outdated protocol, makes it more difficult for women to access a less invasive abortion service and increases the costs for women who may have to travel, take off from work, or find childcare for multiple office visits. Simply put, this ruling upholds a law that makes it increasingly difficult for a woman to access a safe and legal abortion.”
So, to recap: a bunch of conservative justices who don't support abortion think it's perfectly fine for women and trans men — particularly poor and rural individuals — to face insurmountable travel and ever-mounting costs to exercise their basic right to choose.
No matter what conservatives and anti-reproductive-health advocates do to restrict access to safe, legal abortion, it does nothing to actually reduce a pregnant person's decision to terminate. Texas women will die as a result of this decision, as they resort to ever-desperate measures to end unwanted pregnancies.
But hey, this apparently isn't an “undue burden,” so according to the 5th Circuit, it's all good.