In June, the Supreme Court blocked the implementation of HB 2, the omnibus abortion bill just days before it was scheduled to go into effect. Texas has already seen over half of the abortion clinics operating in the state close in the two years since the passage of HB 2, and the full implementation of the bill would cause even further loss to access.
That’s because the most strict requirements – that a facility must meet the licensing requirements of an Ambulatory Surgical Center – are almost entirely out of reach for those clinics that don’t already meet these standards. One of the biggest criticisms of this requirement is cost. It can take millions of dollars to convert an existing facility into an ASC, but for two healthcare providers in San Antonio, continued access to abortion services was worth the cost.
The Alamo City Surgery Center was opened in San Antonio in June, the Texas Observer reports, to the tune of $3 million. As abortion care providers at Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, Dr. Alan Braid and Dr. Eduardo Aquino experienced the devastating impact of House Bill 2 firsthand. “The laws that have come about are designed to punish women, to make it harder for them to access [abortion services],” Braid told the Texas Observer. He continued, “We saw this as the only way to ensure we could keep seeing patients and be prepared for when the law was enforced.”
Though any clinic that stays open is valuable, San Antonio is strategically important in the struggle to maintain abortion access in Texas.
For Texans living in the Rio Grande Valley, a provider in San Antonio may already be the closest option. Outside of McAllen and El Paso, none of the communities along the border have clinics offering abortion services.
Access to abortion in El Paso and McAllen is far from secure, and always at risk of the next round of restrictions. One of the clinics currently operating in El Paso closed following the passage of HB 2 but was able to open again following legal victories against the law. Another, Reproductive Services, is awaiting its license following the Supreme Court’s decision, AP reported.
The healthcare providers in El Paso and McAllen are using every tool at there disposal to try to keep their doors open so that patients in their communities will still have access to safe, legal, abortion services. Without this tenacity and commitment to care on the parts of doctors like Dr. Braid and Dr. Aquino across the state, Texans would be in an even more dire situation.
It isn’t just about the financial cost – though $3 million is an incredibly steep price to pay for continued access to abortion services. Abortion providers go to work every day under threats to their clinics, their patients, and their very lives. Laws like House Bill 2 do nothing to improve women’s health. Instead, they put further restrictions on patients and doctors and encourage a culture of violence against abortion providers and those who seek their services.
“I see the absurdity in all of this,” Dr. Baird told the Texas Observer, “the unnecessary waste and obstacles thrown at providers and patients for no reason other than ideology.” But ensuring access to abortion services is “a part of providing women’s health,” and his investment in this clinic, along with Dr. Aquino, will allow him to continue to do just that.
Texans should not have to fear the closure of clinics in their communities, and providers should not have to spend millions of dollars on medically unnecessary structural improvements just to secure continued access to abortion services. But at a time when access to abortion care is more threatened than ever, Dr. Braid and Dr. Aquino, and their counterparts around the state, stand as examples of a true commitment to reproductive justice in Texas.