The number of abortion clinics has dropped by half in Texas since state lawmakers passed a controversial requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals near the facilities, and some watchdogs say there may only be six of the facilities left by this fall.
Last year, before the law was passed, there were 41 abortion clinics in the state, but now there are just 20, reports National Public Radio
Many of them closed because their doctors could not comply with the law, which passed after bitter fighting that included Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis'
national newsmaking filibuster and led her to launch a bid for the governor's office.
The law took effect in November, but this week marks its first anniversary of passage.
"We're seeing people being pushed further into pregnancy," said Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. Patients are "having to leave the state, having to drive and sleep in their cars in parking lots because of these barriers to access."
The final part of the restrictions will go into effect Sept. 1, and requires all offices that provide abortions to upgrade the facilities into ambulatory surgery centers, which Busby says most can't afford to do and will have to close.
"This would basically force all the clinics to become mini-hospitals," she said. "They have to have hallway widths a certain length, and a janitor's closet, male and female locker rooms, which is completely unnecessary — and a bunch of other regulations that are really not appropriate or do anything to increase the safety of one of the safest procedures in the country."
The law's supporters say the omnibus legislation makes abortion safer and will protect women. Last year, when the law passed, Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell told The Texas Tribune
that there was nothing in the law "that will close a clinic. That's up to the clinic. If they want to put profit over a person, that's up to them."
But Busby argued abortion is one of the safest office-based procedures and has a complication rate of less than .05 percent.
Several of the remaining abortion providers joined together in April to file a lawsuit to stop the ambulatory center requirement, reports The New York Times
The clinics, which are backed by major medical associations, complain that the law singles them out for costly regulation that is not required for other outpatient facilities or procedures.
The lawsuit was filed shortly after a federal appeals court refused to overturn the law's provision concerning hospital admitting privileges.
Whole Woman's Health
, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit, at one point had six clinics in Texas, but was forced to close two of them. If the court action doesn't stop the final part of the law from being implemented, the group will need to close three more clinics in Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio because of the surgical requirement, leaving just one other open in San Antonio.
As a result, Busby told NPR, there are no abortion clinics now in all of East Texas or in the Rio Grande Valley. The newly built Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston fulfills the ambulatory center requirement, she said, and will stay open.
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