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Health & Science

Texas Abortion Rate Declines As Clinics Close Their Doors

13 percent drop re-ignites debate over state law’s new abortion restrictions.

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Abortions have been declining nationally, but the drop in Texas was steeper. Researchers with the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found the rate dropped 13 percent after the law was passed. That’s the equivalent of 9,200 abortions.

Supporters of the law say it’s about making abortion safer for women, but Kathy Kleinfeld, a consultant for abortion providers in Texas, dismisses that. She said most abortions require no incisions or general anesthesia and doctors have been doing them safely in office settings for many years.

 “Abortion is one of the safest procedures done,” Kleinfeld said. “So there’s not been a problem with safety. This is about restricting access to abortion. Period. The end.”

The Texas law passed a year ago had a number of provisions – but a big one kicked in last November.

It required doctors doing the abortion to have hospital privileges near the abortion clinic. Many clinics couldn’t comply by the deadline. The number of clinics in Texas has dropped from 41 to 20.  

The next requirement under the law, that abortions only take place in an ambulatory surgical center, starts September 1. Kleinfeld said it’s another unnecessary hurdle, and a dozen more clinics will probably close.

“To build out an ambulatory surgery center is at least $2 million,” she said.

Melissa Conway is a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, which is based here in Houston.

She said if the number of abortions and the number of clinics drops in Texas, that’s something she’s glad about, but it wasn’t the intent of the law. She said abortion providers should invest in the required upgrades.

“The choice to have fewer clinics comes down to the abortion providers,” Conway said. “If they choose to have disregard for the health of women, and the safety standards, which are practical, common-sense and best standards, that’s their choice. But that points highly to the fact that they care more about their bottom line than they do their patient care.”

But Kleinfeld said even if abortion providers want to move their operations to a surgical center, the law didn’t give them enough time.

Designing and building one takes more than the 13 months allowed by the law, and she said simply renting space in a surgery center is almost impossible. That’s because other doctors don’t want the protestors.

“The other physicians aren’t going to want to bring their patients for tummy tucks and breast augmentations in there while anti-abortion folks are outside with gory signs and yelling at patients walking in and out of the surgery center,” she said.

Unless a lawsuit delays the new requirement, there will only be two places left in Houston to get an abortion starting September 1.  

 

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