Texas’ highly-restrictive anti-abortion law led to the closing of two women’s health clinics in the Rio Grande Valley, where residents in need of reproductive health services face increasingly long journeys to get them.
RH Reality Check reported on Wednesday that the clinics, located in Beaumont and McAllen, were part of the Whole Woman’s Health system, which at one point operated five facilities in the state.
“It’s hard for me to feel like I’m giving up, letting people down,” CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller was quoted as saying. “There’s no miracle way to pay the bills.”
The law, HB2, requires doctors performing abortions in the state to have admission privileges at hospitals within a 30-mile radius. Facilities like Whole Woman’s Health are also required to be equipped in the same way as ambulatory surgery centers as of September 2014. Abortions themselves are banned after 20 weeks. The Supreme Court declined in November 2013 to reinstate an injunction preventing the 30-mile surgical admission privileges requirement from taking effect.
Hagstrom Miller told RH Reality Check she decided to “rip the Band-Aid off” and close the McAllen and Beaumont facilities after determining she could not afford to convert them into surgical centers before the deadline.
Residents in the Rio Valley seeking abortions must now drive two and a half hours to Corpus Christi, where the Whole Woman’s Health clinic will also close in September because of the cost of converting it into a surgical center. After that, the closest abortion provider is in San Antonio, three and a half hours away. Beaumont residents must travel 90 minutes to Houston or three hours to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Hagstrom Miller also told RH Reality Check she has “cold-called” surgical centers in Austin and Fort Worth to see if they would be willing to lease use of their facilities on nights and weekends to her organization, to no avail, in part because some of the centers are owned by Catholic hospitals, prohibiting them from hosting not only abortion procedures, but vasectomies or tubal ligations.
“It’d be a miracle if I could pull it off in those two communities,” Hagstrom Miller was quoted as saying.
After all of HB 2’s provisions take effect, Whole Woman’s Health’s San Antonio location will be one of just six clinics in the state legally able to provide abortions.
“We’ve been well aware that Texas has been against us and on us for many, many years,” regional director Marva Sadler was quoted as saying. “But I did not think I would see a day where they would have put up such barriers that now that we’re actually closing clinics, and they’re essentially taking away the right to fair and safe comprehensive health care that all women, not only in the state of Texas, deserve to have.”
[Image: “Keep Abortion Legal” by American Life League via Flickr Creative Commons]