By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams
Reproductive rights advocates denounce ‘injustice’ to women as Bill 2 forces more clinics to close
Two more reproductive healthcare clinics in Texas that provided abortion closed this week, an ‘injustice’ critics say has been brought on by legislation that robs women of their rights and ‘endangers the lives of the state’s most vulnerable women.’
The two clinics were part of the Whole Women’s Health network-one in McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley, and the other in Beaumont, in eastern Texas.
Abortion providers blame Texas House Bill 2 for the closures. The first part of that law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, requires the woman seeking a medical abortion to make four separate visits to the clinic, and also bans the procedure after 20 weeks.
Since that law has taken effect last year, 19 abortion clinics have been forced to close. Twenty-four remain in the state, but additional restrictions to take effect later this year could force even more to shutter.
“Safe, legal options for women in need of abortion care are now nonexistent in south and east Texas, and that is no accident,” stated Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, referring to the effects of HB2.
“The consequence of HB2 is an injustice, plain and simple,” adds Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. “It is an injustice to the women we serve and to our communities. It is an injustice to those in Texas seeking the their legal right to end an unwanted pregnancy safely. The legislators lied when they said HB2 would not close our clinics, that they weren’t trying to make safe abortion care inaccessible. Now, we see the truth.”
Whole Women’s Health says that the McAllen closure means that women who live in the Rio Grande Valley will be forced to make a five-hour drive for abortion care, while women previously served by the Beaumont clinic will be forced to drive 90 minutes one-way to Houston.
The barriers now facing seeking women from those areas mean they may not be able to safely end their pregnancies.
Women attempting to get to a clinic still in service may face immigration checkpoints, so undocumented women face still more barriers to safe abortion access.
Already, Hagstrom Miller told MSNBC, the increased barriers on women seeking abortion in the state have made it “very much like pre-Roe,” and described women who have come to the clinic in desperate need of care after attempting to self-end their pregnancy with unsafe methods. She says that these state-imposed barriers to abortion have done nothing to prevent the need for abortion.
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux echoes this point, writing in The American Prospect:
For many women, a long drive, an overnight stay, and a few days off work are a substantial burden, but not impossible. For the residents of the Rio Grande Valley, though, these new hurdles could make abortion as difficult to obtain as if it were illegal. McAllen is one of the poorest cities in the country, second only to Brownsville, another town nearby. Last fall, Sarah Posner documented some of the barriers that keep women in the Rio Grande from accessing basic reproductive healthcare like birth control. Unpaved roads, erratic electricity, and poor sanitation are common in the surrounding communities. Few of the Rio Grande’s residents have jobs with sick leave. By Hagstrom Miller’s estimate, around one-third of her patients are undocumented immigrants who can’t drive beyond the border checkpoints north of McAllen without risking deportation.
“The closure of Whole Women’s Health clinic is a tragedy for women in Texas and indicative of the cost when we allow politicians to use deceitful back-door tactics to rob us of our fundamental rights,” stated Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose the health care and reproductive options best for us, yet anti-choice lawmakers have run rough shod over that sentiment and now are endangering the lives of the state’s most vulnerable women.”