Under Gov. Rick Perry’s direction, Texas Republicans have done a pretty outstanding job making it almost impossible for low income women in their state to access affordable reproductive health care. First they shut down the state’s popular and effective Women’s Health Program, kicking over 100,000 women off their insurance all as a way to defund Planned Parenthood. Now they’ve got the state’s remaining clinics in their sights.
Senate Bill 537 is a TRAP bill that would only allow abortions in facilities that state regulators say qualify as an ambulatory surgical center, places with operating rooms for minor surgeries. The bill would also require that women could only take an abortion-inducing medication in the same facility. “This bill is part of Governor Rick Perry’s plan to end safe, legal abortion in Texas—and not about protecting women’s health or safety,” said Carla Holeva, CEO of Planned Parenthood of West Texas.
“Proponents of this bill are not really concerned about women’s health. This bill places onerous requirements on health centers, requirements that do nothing to improve the health or safety of women,” said Holeva. “Our primary concern is for the women of Texas. Senate Bill 537 is a back door abortion ban, plain and simple. If passed, this bill would effectively end access to a safe and legal medical procedure in this state, which is harmful for women’s health.”
Like all TRAP requirements, the requirements of SB 537 are excessive and medically unnecessary, and will be difficult, if not impossible, for health centers to meet. The bill requires all health centers that provide safe and legal abortions to become licensed Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASCs). Among the 117 pages of regulations required of Ambulatory Surgical Centers in Texas are surgical operating rooms of at least 240 square feet, specific requirements for the flooring and outfitting of janitors closets, and ventilation systems required for a sterile operating room, among many other onerous requirements that are excessive for procedures that, like abortion, can be safely performed in a health center setting.
Texas is a BIG state, and getting to a clinic is not always easy for a lot of women. Care in the state is already hardest to come by in rural areas, and if passed, this “Back Door Abortion Ban” would result in the closure of multiple health centers outside of a few major cities and would have a devastating impact on women living in most areas of Texas. Women’s health advocates fear that passage of the bill will compound Texas women’s health crisis.
“After shredding the preventive health care safety net for low-income and uninsured women, it’s outrageous that politicians are once again threatening Texas women’s access to a safe and legal medical procedure,” said Holeva. “Texans are counting on our legislators to show real leadership by defeating this latest attack on women’s health and focusing on restoring women’s access to lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic, preventive health care by reinstating the Medicaid Women’s Health Program and restoring funding to the state’s family planning program.”
Excessive regulations are already in place in Texas, far exceeding what is necessary to uphold patient health and safety at health centers that provide safe, legal abortion. Health centers providing abortion must have a licensed physician and nurse on staff and must follow rigorous reporting requirements of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for each and every abortion procedure.
Closing clinics that provide reproductive health care to women is the only goal of these legislators. Out of the 38 clinics in the state only 5 would meet these new requirements, a fact the bill’s sponsor readily acknowledges.
At least they’re being honest about their motives, I suppose.
Photo from Franco Folini via flickr.