Texas’ Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld harmful anti-abortion provisions this week stating that forcing a woman seeking abortion care to leave the state does not pose undue burden. The decision also leaves 13 clinics facing imminent closure.
The decision allows the state to uphold 2013 bill HB 2, requiring that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the costly hospital-like standards for buildings known as ambulatory surgical centers (ASC). It gives Texas clinics twenty two days to achieve this multi-million dollar requirement.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said that the ruling “put a road full of unnecessary hurdles in front of every woman in Texas who has decided to end her pregnancy.” Indeed, an estimated 1.3 million women of reproductive age will now live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic.
“For scores of Texas women, the repercussions of this ruling will be devastating,” Miller added.
The ruling also reverses the lower court’s order blocking Texas’s admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor. This provision has already forced approximately half the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors over the past two years. The court claimed that this is not an undue burden on Texas women, despite only seven clinics in Texas currently meeting these standards.
The seven clinics that comply are in Texas’ major cities: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Only two clinics (in McAllen and El Paso) serve the Rio Grande Valley area. These two clinics will be closed due to non-compliance with ASC standards. In El Paso, women will face a round-trip of over a thousand miles to obtain abortion care, traveling to neighboring New Mexico to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion.
“Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“We now look to the Justices to stop the sham laws that are shutting clinics down and placing countless women at risk of serious harm,” Northup said, urging the Supreme Court to take up the case.
This ruling will especially impact low-income women and single mothers. It adds significant burdens such as coming up with the cost and means of travel, taking additional time off work, and often finding lodging, due to Texas’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period.
Media Resources: NY Times 7/18/13; Center for Reproductive Rights Press Release 6/9/15; Feminist Newswire 5/9/13;