Texas abor­tion clin­ics may close as court al­lows new re­stric­tions

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEKE AHEAD - —Vir­gil Dick­son

Thir­teen Texas abor­tion clin­ics serv­ing large parts of the state could close their doors this week fol­low­ing a decision by a fed­eral ap­pel­late court Thurs­day

al­low­ing a state law to take ef­fect re­quir­ing the clin­ics to im­ple­ment costly hos­pi­tal-level up­grades to their fa­cil­i­ties.

Abor­tion fa­cil­i­ties would be forced to spend mil­lions on up­grades to com­ply with the law. Be­fore the law was passed last year, there were more than 40 clin­ics of­fer­ing abor­tion ser­vices. Now only eight meet the new re­quire­ments. Those are con­cen­trated around Hous­ton, Austin, San An­to­nio, Dal­las and Fort Worth, leav­ing large swaths of the state un­served by abor­tion providers.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence that a “large frac­tion” of women seek­ing abor­tions would face an un­con­sti­tu­tional bur­den be­cause of the new fa­cil­i­ties’ re­quire­ments and clinic clos­ings.

That decision means that 900,000 women of re­pro­duc­tive age live at least 150 miles from an abor­tion clinic, said Heather Busby, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “As of to­day, clin­ics are likely can­cel­ing ap­point­ments and not do­ing abor­tions,” she said. “Abor­tion as­sis­tance funds are rais­ing all the money they can to help, but that will still only help a frac­tion of the women who need it.”

She wasn’t sure ex­actly when the cen­ters that don’t meet the new fa­cil­ity stan­dards would close be­cause the le­gal fight isn’t over yet. Ad­vo­cates could ap­peal to the full 5th Cir­cuit Court to hear the case en banc. If de­nied, they could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to in­ter­vene, said John Robert­son, a Univer­sity of Texas law pro­fes­sor.


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