Texas Abortion Clinic Closures Leaves 400 Miles Of The State Without Any, And It's Going To Get Dramatically Worse

Friday is a bleak day for scores of Texas women seeking abortion services: The Rio Grande Valley, already impoverished and underserved in women's health, saw its sole abortion clinic in McAllen shuttered on Thursday. This fate was mirrored by the closure of the only clinic in Beaumont, leaving a 400-mile wide swath of Texas, from Houston all the way to Louisiana, without any access to safe, professional abortion. 

Both clinics were under the management of Whole Women's Health, which explained regretfully in a Facebook post Wednesday night that Texas legislators had succeeded in forcing them out of business.

This is the natural and desired outcome of the Texas GOP. Vehemently driven to end abortion, they've placed countless legislative red tape to limit access to abortion. Last summer, the Republican-led state legislature approved a slew of new restrictive rules on the operation of abortion clinics, designed to effectively regulate the state's remaining providers out of existence. 

The bill became the subject of national attention when, during a special legislative session called by Governor Rick Perry, Democratic state senator Wendy Davis filibustered for 13 hours to try to thwart the vote. And thwart it she did — until Perry quickly called another session, and the bill glided through to passage.

The key components of the law are as follows:

  • All doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
  • All abortions must take place inside a surgical facility.
  • Any woman seeking a non-surgical abortion through the use of a drug must make four separate clinic visits in order to do so.
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The consequences of its passage are immense. Countless clinics will be forced to close down, in large part thanks to that first stipulation. Most doctors neither have nor need admitting privileges, unless they're treat patients who frequently need to be hospitalized. Considering both medical and surgical abortion are broadly safe when performed by medical professionals, that's not a requirement many are likely to meet.

This is just the continued march of anti-abortion policy in Texas, which runs an end-around on the constitutional right to abortion — however much it may not seem like it, that is still ostensibly true in America — by simply cutting access to the point that it's functionally banned. In 2011, there were 46 total abortion clinics serving the state. Today, after the McAllen and Beaumont closures, there are only 24 left. By September, facing full implementation of the new regulations, that number in expected to drop to just six.

That's right: Six abortion clinics in the entire state. Texas being the second-most populous state in the nation, and with the second-largest area of space to cover. This is the eventuality that now-gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was warning about, and it's precisely why the outrage over her remarks last month — that she could have supported the legislature's proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, if not for the clinic regulations — was not the epic betrayal some people felt. Not because post-20 week abortions aren't important, but because these targeted regulations are going to stymie abortion in a way just the ban couldn't have dreamed of.

Rachel Maddow ran a lengthy piece on her show Thursday night, interviewing the proprietors and owner of the now-closed clinics. It details recurrence of the kinds of unsafe and horrific self-abortion practices which women were more often forced to turn to pre-Roe vs. Wade — trying to induce miscarriage by asking a partner to beat them, for example.

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Unless pro-choice politics experience a renaissance in Texas this electoral cycle, none of this is going to get any better. It's going to get much, much worse.

Image: Corey Lepold/Flickr

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