What’s next for abortion providers in Texas

FILE - Abortion clinic (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Abortion clinic (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a 5-3 decision Monday, the highest court in the land ruled the medical standards the state of Texas passed into law in 2013 put too much of a burden on women trying to get abortions. It’s a headline-grabbing defeat overturning the toughest abortion restrictions in the nation.

Prior to Texas House Bill 2 passing in 2013, there were 41 clinics in Texas performing abortions. Currently, there are 19 clinics providing those services.

Now that the Supreme Court has determined parts of H.B. 2 are unconstitutional and caus an undue burden on women seeking abortions, what does it mean for those clinics that shuttered its doors in the past few years?

The founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller, says the clinics that have closed won’t reopen overnight. Whole Woman’s Health closed one clinic in Austin and another in Beaumont after H.B. 2 became law. The organization said it had to close the Austin location because it would have been too costly to retrofit its clinic to be in compliance with H.B. 2.

In order to reopen clinics, the organizations will have to look at renewing leasing, hiring staff and complete state licensing requirements.

In Texas, the Department of State Health Services is the regulatory service that handles licensing for abortion facilities. Before a license is issued, the applicant will need to fill out a license application form within 90 calendar days prior to the projected opening date of the facility. The applicant must also pay $5,000 for the license fee. During the initial licensing period, the state will conduct on-site visits to determine compliance with the state laws.

The Supreme Court ruling did not change two other controversial parts of H.B. 2. The Texas law still bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The state law also requires women to visit a doctor three separate times in order to take an abortion-inducing drug. The ruling certainly will not be the end to the debate.

Since Texas has “safe districts” when it comes to the state legislature; it will likely be the same people returning to the state Capitol in just under six months. This decision didn’t change anyone’s hearts and minds.
What we will see next session is a shift away from medical safety standards of the clinics and a push to limit what type and who pays for an abortion.

While celebrating the victory, Pro-choice supporters know the fight is not over.

“We’re going to rely on the medical professionals here to let us know what the correct science is, the correct medicine is here,” said Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin.

“Getting rid of unnecessary sonogram tests. Lying to clients with medically inaccurate information,” said Kathy Miller with the Texas Freedom Network.

Lawyers for Texas Alliance for Life are looking to see what they can bring forth in the next legislative session in response to the ruling. Joe Pojman from Texas Alliance for Life says a goal would be to ban insurance companies both public and private from offering plans with abortions.

“We want to protect every unborn child from abortion but the Supreme Court obviously, severely ties the hands of the legislature so we can only do what’s possible,” said Pojman.

John Seago from Texas Right to Life says this decision will take the emphasis off the clinics and place it on to the procedure itself. Next session, he says they’ll push to ban “dismemberment” abortions and a push to ban abortions after 14 weeks, from the current 20 weeks.

“[It’s not about] whether clinics stay open or not how long it takes to get to a clinic but the core moral question of whether an elective abortion is an ethical decision of what we want to allow in our state,” said Seago.

This whole thing comes at the hands of the Supreme Court and both sides say this November election will go far in deciding whether this country is pro-choice or pro-life.

Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, has already held hearings on fetal tissue donations after an abortion is performed and whether that should be permitted or not. The only lawmaker at the Pro-choice press conference Monday was Austin Representative Donna Howard, expect her to be very active.

 

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