Officials in Texas have forced a Houston abortion clinic to close and suspended the license of the clinic’s medical director and only abortion provider for failing to comply with a new admitting privileges law.
The law, which survived a court battle over the past year, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Officials decided to close the Affordable Women’s Medical Center after two unannounced inspections of the facility revealed that Dr. Theodore M. Herring Jr. did not have admitting privileges, so he “unlawfully” performed over 250 abortions. Although Herring, who has been a licensed doctor for almost 40 years, created a plan to correct his lack of admitting privileges over several months, it was deemed inadequate.
Proponents of the law claim it protects women’s health, but admitting privileges have no rational relationship to improving patient care, treatment, or outcomes, and place an undue burden on women seeking abortion services in Texas. And in Texas, the law did not provide enough time for doctors to obtain admitting privileges.
“This is part of a statewide effort, through medically unnecessary provisions, to drive providers out of business,” said Fatimah Gifford, the spokeswoman for Whole Women’s Health. “Between clinics forced to shut down and actions like this, the law is having a huge effect on access to abortion.”
The Supreme Court refused to block the law in November.The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on its constitutionality, but it has not issued a ruling yet.
Texas has grown increasingly hostile to reproductive rights and access over the past few years. Women’s health clinics that offer abortions have been excluded from state funding for women’s health, and they have been required to abide by Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) that are impossible to follow, causing many to close.
Media Resources: The Houston Chronicle 2/14/14; Bangor Daily News 2/15/14; Feminist Newswire 9/5/13, 10/3/13, 10/29/13, 11/1/13, 11/5/13, 11/20/13, 11/27/13