Tougher state regulations have led to a spate of abortion clinics shutting their doors in Texas and a 13 percent fall in the number of abortions performed in the state, according to a new study published this week.
In April 2013, 41 facilities provided abortions in Texas, said Dr. Daniel Grossman and his colleagues in a study published in Contraception.
By this April, however, the number of clinics fell to 22 — and included closures of both clinics in the Rio Grande Valley and all but one in the vast western part of the state.
Texas is one of a number of states that have issued strict new rules for abortion clinics in recent years, rules that pro-choice forces say are a back-door effort to undermine the right to an abortion. Abortion opponents say the regulations are a reaction to well-publicized cases of abuse and unsanitary conditions at clinics around the country.
When comparable time periods were examined, the Texas abortion rate dropped 13 percent — from 12.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 to 11.2 abortions per 1,000, said the researchers, who are with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at University of Texas at Austin's Population Research Center.
This is equivalent to 9,200 fewer abortions a year, the researchers said.
They argued that the state's hotly-debated 2013 law has led to clinic closings, primarily due to their inability to ensure that their abortion doctors have admitting privileges in local hospitals.
Another section of the law — which requires abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers — has not gone into effect. Critics believe it will force even more clinics to close, although Planned Parenthood has announced that it will soon be opening clinics in Dallas and San Antonio that will meet the new legal standards.
The fight over the Texas clinic law gained national headlines when Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered it, only to see Texas Gov. Rick Perry call the legislature back into session and pass the bill.
Based in large part on the profile she carved out in the abortion fight, Ms. Davis is now running for governor.
"HB2 was a crucial step toward ending the scourge of abortion in Texas," said leaders of Texas Right to Life, which supports the law. When Texas abortion clinics close, "women find other ways to deal with the challenges they face rather than taking the lives of their babies," said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.
However, opponents of the law say it has forced Texas women to go to other states or even across the border to Mexico for abortions.
"HB2 did absolutely nothing to reduce the need for abortion or prevent unintended pregnancies, but it has reduced access to safe, legal and timely abortions for Texans," said Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
The Texas Policy Evaluation Project has estimated that the Texas counties at least 200 miles from the nearest Texas abortion clinic contained 290,000 women of reproductive age in April 2014, up from 10,000 such women in April 2013. When the ambulatory surgical center law goes into effect in September, "this will increase to 752,000" women, the researchers said.
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