If Abortion Facility Bill Passes in Austin, DFW-area Women May Only Have One Option for Abortions


View DFW Abortion Providers in a larger map

Senate Bill 537 is a slippery one. Supporters claim the bill — which would require abortions, including drug-induced ones, to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers — is aimed at saving lives. Detractors claim the bill is a back-door abortion ban. One thing is abundantly clear: if Senate Bill 537 passes, Texas women would have far fewer options, geographically.

Thirty-seven of the state’s 42 abortion clinics do not qualify as ambulatory surgical centers. And, of the 416 ambulatory surgical centers in the state, only five perform abortions, the Texas Tribune reported. If the bill passes, those 37 clinics would be forced to undergo costly renovations — adding infrastructure, reconstructing rooms and doorways — or close their doors. If that were to happen, only one abortion clinic would remain in North Texas: the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center. As the map above indicates, every other clinic would either close or be forced to renovate their facilities. That’s nearly 7 million people — not counting outlying counties, whose women rely on resources within DFW — with one abortion facility.

The only other ASCs in Texas are: a Planned Parenthood in Austin, a Whole Woman’s in San Antonio, a Planned Parenthood in Houston and an Aaron Women’s Health Center in Houston.

“There’s no recent spike in risk or safety incidents that this regulation is responding to. It’s pure politics,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four abortion clinics, including one in Fort Worth, told the Tribune. “The thing we need to worry about is, when you take away women’s access to safe abortion, then what’s going to happen?”

Merritt Tierce runs the Texas Equal Access Fund, an Oak Cliff-based non-profit that helps low-income and disadvantaged women pay for their abortions. Here are her thoughts on the bill:

My local opinion is that this bill constitutes a heinous form of structural violence against women. Proposing legislation that masquerades as intended to “protect the health and safety” (language from SB 537) of women is, in my opinion, worse than open hostility. By restricting access to sexual health education, family planning services, and abortion, Texas is severely damaging the futures of thousands of women and girls, not to mention the children they already have—two thirds of women who have an abortion already have children.

And the reality is that no matter what restrictions on abortion are put in place, women with even modest financial resources or socioeconomic support networks will still be able to access abortion. The women these bills actually harm are the women who are already struggling the most, because they have the least ability to surmount obstacles between their rights and their choices. The 24-hr waiting law has already outright targeted low-income women in Texas, because it means the necessity of another day off work and another day of childcare and travel expenses.

Forcing women who know they cannot care for another child, or have chosen abortion for any other reason, to carry that unwanted pregnancy to term is the most bald and disastrously effective way to strip women and girls of power, health, humanity, and dignity.

The bill recently passed the Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee; it now heads to the full Senate.

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