Since stricter abortion regulations went into effect in Texas in September, 46 percent of clinics have closed, and legal abortions have decreased by 13 percent, according to a study from the University’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project released in July.
House Bill 2, signed into law in July 2013, requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their practices, bans abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization, places stricter policies on medical abortion — including the abortion pill — and adds ambulatory surgical center standards in all facilities. The first three parts went into effect in November 2013, while the last part will be effective in September 2014.
“We thought we would see more decline in the abortion number,” lead researcher Daniel Grossman said.
According to the study, one reason for the lower-than-expected decline is that the admitting privileges requirement disproportionately affected clinics in smaller cities, which may have fewer hospitals and where hospital-based physicians may be reluctant to publicly endorse privileges to abortion providers because of stigmas associated with abortion. Prior to HB 2, Grossman said 25 percent of abortions were performed outside of the four major metropolitan areas in Texas.
Grossman, who is also vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, expressed concern over the impact of the bill.
“As a practicing physician, I agree with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association that there is no medical evidence to support HB 2,” Grossman said.
Grossman said now that so many clinics have closed, more women may begin to self-induce abortions.
Amy Nabozny, president of the University’s College Republicans chapter, said the law benefits women’s health in Texas.
“College Republicans whole-heartedly supports HB 2 because it increases the standards for women’s healthcare in Texas,” said Nabonzy, who is also a history junior. “It’s tragic that abortion supporters would want to compromise quality for accessibility in women’s healthcare.”
Faith Sandberg, co-chair of Feminist Policy Alliance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said she opposes the law because she does not think the state should interfere with women’s health decisions.
“It’s lowering the ability for women to access perfectly legal abortion, which is not the state’s business,” said Sandberg, who is also a public affairs and social work graduate student.
Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion facility with three Texas clinics currently open, experienced the impact of HB 2. After closing their McAllen and Beaumont clinics earlier this year, they are also on the verge of closing their Austin and Fort Worth clinics come September 1. The only Whole Woman’s Health clinic in Texas will be the San Antonio clinic since it is the company’s only facility with a surgical center.
With the closures, Fatimah Gifford, marketing and public relations director at Whole Woman’s Health, said women from across Texas would drive to Austin or San Antonio for abortion procedures where there are only a few physicians available, causing waiting times to increase and appointment availabilities to decrease.
Correction: This article incorrectly stated Grossman said 25 percent of clinics were in small cities. In fact, he said 25 percent of abortions were peformed outside of the four major metropolitan areas in Texas.