Why Texas is Ground Zero of the Abortion Rights Emergency

June 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


In 2011, there were 46 abortion clinics in Texas.1 In March 2014, there were 25 open abortion clinics in Texas.2 There are now even fewer.3

On August 4 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, a trial will begin challenging Texas House Bill 2. Unless this law is overturned, by September 1, the number of abortion clinics could be down to 6, due to the law’s restriction that abortion facilities must meet the standards required for ambulatory surgical centers.4

House Bill 2 is the most comprehensive anti-abortion law to date. It attacks the right to abortion in four ways: it requires that abortion providers have admitting privilege at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinic in which they provide abortions; it requires that abortion clinics meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers: it bans abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest: and it requires that abortion providers must adhere to the Food and Drug Administration's approved protocol when administering medication abortion pills.

The last two abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley—one of the most impoverished areas of the country, along the border between the U.S. and Mexico—were forced to close because of the hospital admitting privileges restriction of House Bill 2.5 Women in the Rio Grande Valley currently have no access to safe, legal abortions. The closest alternative abortion clinic is currently in Corpus Christi, over 150 miles away from the Rio Grande Valley. However, because this clinic does not meet the standards for an ambulatory surgical center, it also faces closure in September. The next closest abortion clinic would be 230 miles away in San Antonio.

Many women in the Rio Grande Valley are uninsured and cannot afford to travel the distance to the next nearest abortion clinic in Corpus Christi. Few women have access to transportation and others have work visas that restrict how many miles they can travel and lack the right paperwork to cross the immigration checkpoints on highways that run throughout the state.6

A critical situation also exists in West Texas, in and around El Paso.

In 2011, 93% of Texas counties had no abortion clinic and 35% of women living in Texas resided in these counties. 89% of U.S. counties had no abortion clinic and 38% of women in the U.S. lived in these counties, resulting in many women having to travel outside their county to obtain an abortion.7 Due to the 205 abortion restrictions passed at the state level between 2011-2013—comprising more restrictions than in the entire previous decade—the situation today is even worse!8

In 2014, a majority of women in the U.S. live in a state where abortion is stigmatized by targeted restrictions against abortion providers, restrictions on insurance coverage of abortion, banning abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and restrictions on medication abortion.9

Public funding for abortions in Texas up until 20 weeks of pregnancy is only available in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.10

Eleven states, including Texas, mandate that counseling be provided in person and that the counseling occur before the waiting period prior to being allowed to receive an abortion begins, thereby requiring two separate trips to the abortion facility.11

Women in Texas are required to receive in-person state-directed "counseling" on the false link between abortion and breast cancer, so-called "fetal pain," and the "negative psychological effects" of abortion, the primary purpose of which is to stigmatize abortion and shame women. Women in Texas must then wait 24 hours after counseling before the abortion procedure is provided.12

In Texas, women are required to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion and the abortion provider is required to show and describe the ultrasound image to the woman seeking an abortion procedure.13

Beginning September 1, 2014—unless House Bill 2 is decided to be unconstitutional—women in Texas will be required to take medication in front of a doctor at an outpatient surgical center. Coupled with the requirements in Texas that women seeking abortion must view a sonogram 24 hours before the abortion procedure, women will have to make four visits to the same provider to get a pill-induced abortion.


1. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1). [back]

2. rhrealitycheck.org/tracking-texas-abortion-access-map [back]

3. Ibid. [back]

4. www.nytimes.com/2014/03/07/us/citing-new-texas-rules-abortion-provider-is-shutting-last-clinics-in-2-regions.html?_r=0 [back]

5. www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-rise-of-the-diy-abortion-in-texas/373240/ and www.nationaljournal.com/health-care/how-republicans-won-the-fight-over-abortion-in-texas-20140306 [back]

6. www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-rise-of-the-diy-abortion-in-texas/373240/ [back]

7. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion Incidence and Access to Services in the United States, 2008, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1). [back]

8. www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2014/01/02/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Guttmacher+(New+from+the+Guttmacher+Institute) [back]

9. Ibid. [back]

10. www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/texas.html and www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_OAL.pdf [back]

11. www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_MWPA.pdf [back]

12. www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/spibs/spib_OAL.pdf [back]

13. www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/texas.html [back]

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